Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Overlooked issue: border security and personal exemptions

Last August, Anne McLellan put out a "trial balloon" announcement that the Government recognized that border security enforcement was complicated by....ordinary, "law abiding" Canadians who were nervous about the value of goods they were bringing back from the United States. A lot of time has been wasted by Canada Border Services Agency personnel dealing with nervous people who were not terrorists, who were not carrying illegal firearms or illegal drugs, but who had bought a few bargain-priced dresses or a bargain-priced DVD player in the States (think: Target) and who were freaking nervous about how much bloody duty CBSA would make 'em pay.

For a brief couple of days, McLellan and a couple of other Liberal leaders raised the possibility of increasing Canadians' personal exemption amounts (similar to Americans' personal exemptions). Canadians' current personal exemptions are ridiculously low and are listed as follows:

Absence of less than 24 hours: $0 personal exemption
Absence of 24 to 48 hours: $50 personal exemption
Absence of 48 hours or more: $200 personal exemption
Absence of 7 days or more: $750 personal exemption

American residents returning from Canada to the land of the Stars and Stripes and the land of armed customs agents receive the following U.S. duty-free personal exemptions:

Absence of less than 24 hours: $200 personal exemption
Absence of 24 to 48 hours: $200 exemption
Absence of 48 hours or more: $800 exemption

Canadian land and sea borders are seriously under-patrolled as it is. Reducing the amount of time spent by border agents dealing with minor amounts of revenue will dramatically increase their effecitveness at screening for criminal activities - i.e. gun smuggling, drug smuggling, human cargo, et al. It will also demonstrate to Uncle Sam that Canada is not totally clueless about national security priorities.