The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is proposing a new crossing fee at land borders to help pay for the increased cost of policing them, but the idea of taxing Canadians to pay for American security is weak.
The Americans have been boosting security at the border since the events of 9/11, but the idea of a new tax would be counterproductive for many reasons. U.S. businesses that depend on tourists, for example, are opposed to the idea because of fears it would reduce traffic, which is currently worth about $21 billion a year in Canadian spending alone.
A fee for every car and every person on a tourist bus would also contribute to even longer delays at the border, which could have serious consequences for commercial carriers. It also is contrary to the spirit of free trade and to the idea of a "North American community," as the Canadian Chamber of Commerce put it.
Bridge tolls at key crossings are collected to pay for the infrastructure. Air travellers pay a small fee on their airline tickets to enter the U.S., but such fees have become customary and are not disruptive.
Security trumps all other concerns in the U.S., but it should not be allowed to weaken the special relationship that has allowed the two countries to co-operate in ways that are mutually beneficial.
The two sides are developing a common security approach to border protection designed to speed up the flow of goods and people, but a new fee would merely undermine that process and the ultimate goal of a continental security strategy.