Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A fee to cross border? Forget it

Congressman says it won't happen

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OTTAWA -- A U.S. congressman says Canadians should not be overly concerned about a proposed border-crossing fee, saying it just isn't going to happen.

Democratic representative Brian Higgins, who is from the border city of Buffalo, N.Y., told CTV's Question Period on Sunday he has a lot of allies in the U.S. Congress who will stop any legislation that includes a fee for crossing the border by land. There is already a fee for air travellers built into their tickets.

Higgins, who is a member of the Homeland security committee, has been a vocal critic of a proposed feasibility study on a border fee since it was spotted last week buried deep in the department's 2014 budget.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat, has also spoken out in opposition.

The Canadian government said it would lobby against such a fee.

But Higgins said there is sufficient political opposition to stop any such fee in its tracks.

"I'm telling you it's not going to happen," Higgins said.

"The early indications are that both Democrats and Republicans oppose it and any new fee would have to get by both the House of Representatives, of which I am a member, and also the United States Senate, which Sen. Schumer is a member. I'm going to fight this very, very aggressively and I have a lot of allies."

In testimony two weeks ago, Homeland Security head Janet Napolitano noted fees that support processing more than 350 million travellers a year have not been adjusted, in many cases, for more than a decade.

It was unclear in the proposed budget item how the fee would be collected or what it would cost.

But Higgins said any additional impediment to Canadians travelling to the U.S. is a false economy.

In his hometown, the damage would be considerable.

He said neither the Sabres NHL franchise nor the NFL Bills would exist in Buffalo, considered a small market by American standards, if not for the fan base in southern Ontario, many of whom cross the border to buy tickets for home games.

As well, "25 to 30 per cent of our retail economy is the Canadian shopper, so we're looking to expand cross-border movement, not stifle it," he said.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 29, 2013 A11

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