US plans tougher inspections at border
Calling Canada a potential conduit for bioterrorism, pests and disease, the US government is boosting its northern border inspection muscle - and making Canadian air travellers and commercial shippers foot the bill. In what it calls an “emergency action,” the US Department of Agriculture has served notice it will levy a per-trip surcharge on all air travellers and commercial cargo shippers from Canada, starting Nov. 24. The US entry fee will range from US$5 per air passenger to $488 per maritime vessel, with trucks paying $5.25 per crossing and railways $7.50 per car. The estimated $77-million raised annually will fund a much-expanded agriculture inspector program to screen air travellers and commercial rail, truck, water and plane shipments for pests and biohazards. Visitors to the US should expect tougher scrutiny from inspectors looking for prohibited birds, animals, fruit and vegetables. “The US/Canada border . . . is the longest undefended border in the world,” the USDA said in a late-August announcement in the Federal Register. “Our current dearth of inspection activity at that border could potentially leave the United States vulnerable to bioterrorism.” Canadian airlines warned yesterday that the new surcharge will discourage US-bound air travel, and business groups said they're worried the unexpected move could mean more border traffic snarls that undermine two-way commerce.
International Trade Minister David Emerson said yesterday that Washington alerted him to the measure about two weeks ago, adding he plans to keep talking with the US to forestall any impact on cross-border business. The USDA says records show Canada is an increasing threat when it comes to unwanted plant pests entering the US, particularly from third-country products relabelled as Canadian and then exported in US-bound shipments. Unlike other countries, Canada has until now enjoyed an exemption from US border inspections of domestically grown fruit and vegetables as well as the user fees assessed to pay for the checks. Trade lawyer Larry Herman said the planned changes appear to breach NAFTA. “Border inspections for health, safety and other reasons can be one of the most aggressive uses of protectionism,” said Herman of Cassels Brock. Fred Gaspar, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association of Canada, called the passenger levy “another nail in the coffin” for plane travel. The Canadian Trucking Alliance said it is worried about the impact of more inspections. “The hope is the USDA will recognize they cannot start to create bottlenecks at the border,” said svp Graham Cooper. Shirley-Ann George of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce called the levy and increased inspections one more inhibitor to cross-border trade and a duplication of existing prohibitions against smuggling. “At some point, there is a straw that breaks the camel's back,” she said.
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The Americans can believe whatever they want about Canada, but I implore Canada's political, business and cultural decision-makers to work as hard as they can to lower Canada's economic and cultural dependency on the United States as quickly as possible. Things are growing more and more divisive between the two countries and Canada should look elsewhere for more lucrative opportunities. If in their delusional and paranoid thinking they think we're such a big threat, we'll go and do things elsewhere with other people.
Warning signs in West, TD says: Retreat possible
There are "warning" signs of housing bubbles in some western Canadian cities, especially Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton, a report by TD Bank said yesterday. There will likely be a significant softening of unsustainable prices in those cities, and possibly even a retreat, the bank said in its city-by-city analysis of the housing market. But the bank also said housing prices in most parts of Canada never reached the bubble stage that they did in US cities, and as such should not go from boom to bust as is happening there. Canadian housing markets have been booming in recent years with extremely high starts, sales and price gains in many markets, but have generally lacked the degree of speculation that dominated past boom-bust cycles, it said. And the excesses here have been far less than those in the US However, a few western cities are "clearly flashing warning lights," the bank cautioned. "There is no question that the recent dramatic price gains in Calgary and Vancouver are unsustainable and that these urban centres are vulnerable to significant moderation, including the possibility of a pullback in prices at some point in the future," it warned. "Edmonton is also experiencing explosive price growth, but affordability remains high. In contrast, the other major Canadian real estate markets appear to be in much more balanced shape and housing activity in central and Atlantic Canada has already cooled without prompting a price correction - supporting the view that a bubble never formed in these regions." National home sales fell 3.1% in July to 39,319, the Canadian Real Estate Association said. Sales fell in all provinces other than Nova Scotia and PEI.
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My only hope for being a homeowner in Calgary over the next five years is if I can prey on the misery of others. What a great feeling that is.