A U.S. proposal to collect a fee from those who enter the country at two land border crossings is being "monitored" by the Canadian government, an official said.
"Since it's not a measure aimed at Canadians, but it will hit Americans re-entering as well, we're just monitoring it," said Catherine Nagy, a spokeswoman for the Department of External Affairs. "Right now, we have no official statement to make," she added.
The proposal, part of the 1991 appropriations bill for the U.S. Department of Justice, would permit the Immigration and Naturalization Service to collect fees at border crossings until Sept. 30, 1993, as an experiment, the Congressional Quarterly reported. One of the two likely sites is on the Canada-U.S. border at Blaine, Wash. The other is on the Mexican border.
The money collected would be used by the service to hire more staff.
"Details of the proposal are expected next spring, but one scenario is to create an express lane" for traffic wishing to avoid long lines, said Benno Friesen, the Canadian member of Parliament who represents the British Columbia border riding across from Blaine.
Vehicle operators could either buy annual or monthly permits or pay each time. Another plan is to charge a lower fee to all vehicles. The long lines at the Canadian borders have been caused by record numbers of Canadians traveling to the United States to shop.
"What they (Americans) are planning to do is charge a fee for processing an application to give you speedy access through a fast service lane. It will make it easier for those who are regular travelers," Friesen said.
He said there are five border crossings between his riding and the United States, which account for 27 percent of all ground traffic between the two countries. "Buffalo's problem is nothing compared to this," he said.
In a similar charge, those traveling to the United States from Canada by air began paying a $10 fee in November. The fee is collected by the airlines as part of the ticket cost. Joe Clark, Canada's minister of external affairs, knew vaguely of the new proposal.
"It is an American proposal that would have to do with Americans who came into the U.S. or Canadians who came into the U.S. And that I guess is within their jurisdiction. I've only read a news report about it and I don't know more about it than that . . . but it has to do, as I understand the news report, with citizens from all backgrounds," said Clark.
Friesen said he has not heard complaints from his constituents over the proposal.