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New $5.50 Tax For Canadians Flying To U.S. Called A 'Provocative Insult'

<p>Oh! Canada!</p>
S. Badz
Getty Images

Oh! Canada!

Canadians are not feeling very loved by the United States. The latest spat comes after the U.S. announced that any Canadian traveling to the country by air or boat will be charged a $5.50 tax.

The tax had been discussed and discarded before, but a new free-trade deal signed with Colombia prohibits tariff exemptions for travelers from Canada.

The sentiment in Canada is perhaps best captured by the headline in today's National Post:

"U.S. can't pay debts, wants Canadians to do it for them at $5.50 a pop"

The Vancouver Sun's political columnist called it "some Yankee hanky panky."

Ottawa wasn't very happy either. They see this as a follow-up slap to 2009's "Buy American" plan. Pat Martin, an MP from Winnepeg,told the Toronto Star that the tax was a "provocative insult to Canadians."

"I expect our foreign affairs diplomats and representatives to push back and push back hard," he said.

CTV reports on reaction from the U.S. ambassador to Canada:

U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson urged Canadians not to take the fee to heart, and he defended the Obama administration's decision to resurrect it.

"The elimination of the exemption was necessitated by the budget situation in my country," he said.

"It is paid by American citizens and foreign nationals alike just like Canadian citizens and non-Canadian citizens pay fees at Canadian airports .... This fee is not in any way an action against Canada and will not have any effect on the progress of the ongoing discussions surrounding the Beyond the Border initiative."

With about 7 million Canadians flying to the U.S. a year, the new tax is expected to raise a little more than $100 million a year. There's no word yet on when it goes into effect.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.