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Foreign Affairs

Harper’s perimeter deal could stick Canadians with billions in new taxes

Posted on February 22, 2011

The Liberal Party of Canada today called on the Harper government to listen to Canadians and to conduct open and transparent negotiations on a new security perimeter deal with the U.S. – particularly in light of potential new border tax increases that could cost Canadians billions of dollars.

“Canadians are clearly worried, and so are we,” said Liberal International Trade Critic Martha Hall Findlay at a press conference today. “For months this government has been negotiating with the U.S. in complete secrecy – and what does Stephen Harper have to show for it? Threats of new taxation against Canadians.”

The U.S. government wants to charge Canadian air travellers $5.50 per person to enter the U.S, amounting to an estimated $90 million annually. Adding insult to injury, late last week it was learned that another new U.S. Congress bill is calling for a new “freight fee” of up to $500 per item sold to the U.S.  This could cost Canadian and U.S. businesses up to $112 million daily – or up to $42 billion annually.

These new tax threats come on the heels of the Prime Minister’s announcement of a new perimeter deal with the U.S. following months of secret negotiations. They reinforce concerns that Mr. Harper is more willing to bend to U.S. security demands than to improve trade and create jobs for Canadians.

The vague yet heavily security-focused content of the proposal – and the secretive manner in which it came about – has Canadians asking serious questions about the Conservative government’s commitment to truly enhancing trade with the U.S., while defending our sovereignty, privacy and the rights of our citizens.

A poll released late last week shows two-thirds of Canadians fear that Prime Minister Harper will compromise by giving up too much power over immigration, privacy and security to get a deal with the U.S. on border controls.

A whopping 91% of respondents said negotiations should take place in public so they can see what is on the table. More than half – 51% – reported they do not trust Stephen Harper to negotiate a deal that is good for Canada. (Postmedia News, Feb. 18, 2011)
“Mr. Harper owes Canadians some answers to some pretty serious questions,” said Ms. Hall Findlay. “Did he know about these new taxes while holding his secret talks?  Are they a tactic to get Canada to give up even more during the negotiations? And who is Mr. Harper taking direction from – the U.S.? It certainly isn’t Canadians.

“Canadian businesses, farmers, tourists all want more open trade with the U.S.  Canadian jobs depend on real, effective, action against Buy American legislation and the many non-tariff trade barriers that the U.S. has put up to trade from Canada.

“But Stephen Harper has failed Canadians again—the first result of his U.S.-driven ‘security’ deal is stiff new taxes on Canadian air travelers and businesses, which will only worsen Canada-U.S. trade. Mr. Harper must stop the secrecy and share his perimeter plans with Parliament so that Canadians have a say in the outcome,” she said.