Friday, February 18, 2011

Canadian Frugality

Yesterday it came to light that President Obama’s proposed budget includes an item which would charge Canadians a $5.50 "”inspection fee” when entering the United States by plane or boat.  This is the same fee that the US charges people from other countries, and from which Canada was exempted in 1997.  No fee will be assessed to the Canadians who stream over the border by car or bus to buy food, clothing, gas, and alcohol at decent prices.  And Canadians are really conflicted about cross-border shopping.

Canadian cross-border search results
Should we not expect a National Debate on cross-border shopping?

You would think something important had just happened, judging from the reactions of many Canadians.  Who knew?  Canadians are apparently just entitled to visit the United States whenever they please without being subject to the same fees as, say, people from England, Germany or Finland, just because they are Canadians.

It takes some getting used to.

The CBC kicked things off with a story slugged Obama proposed travel tax for Canadians, with a link to a poll question.  The question is:  Border fee:  Do you think the passenger inspection fee is reasonable?  Not surprisingly, the results look like this:

CBC non-scientific poll results
CBC non-scientific poll results

Many Canadians would rather complain about a proposed $5.50 (US) fee than about a $42M (CAD) glass dome which will house Canada’s Parliament…temporarily.  That $42M figure is courtesy of Public Works.  Other sources estimate the cost of Stephen Harper’s Cone of Silence as closer to $100M.

One Hundred Million
"One Hundred Million"

Canadian cross-border frugality is widely recognized by residents of Michigan and Ohio, who can't find anywhere to park at Wal-Mart in the winter because the parking lots are full of $70,000 motor homes with Ontario license plates.

Last month during the World Junior Hockey tournament Canadians flooded across the border to Buffalo, NY  to cheer for any country playing against the United States.  (It's a shame, really, that Canadians' Gold Medal hopes were dashed by arch-rival Russia.)  Apparently Americans can overlook fans fighting in the stands and general rude behavio(u)r, although some are still surprised and disillusioned when they witness it in their own country.  Donn Esmonde of wrote about it here.  What sticks with them, however, is Canadian frugality:
Make no mistake, we were more than happy the past couple of weeks to have Canadians sleep in our hotel rooms, eat in our restaurants, drink in our bars and shop in our malls. We love the uncommon smell of outside dollars. All we ask is that you do not be obnoxious about it.

In some cases, it was too much to ask. I talked to workers at a downtown bar/restaurant that will remain nameless, to protect the place’s cross-border business. By tournament’s end, they had disdain for all things emblazoned with a Maple Leaf. The main complaint, and this is not new, is a lot of Canadian hockey fans are awful tippers.

“They would have a few beers and leave like a quarter or 50 cents,” said one bartender, who for job security reasons asked that his name not be used. “Servers said they were getting two-dollar tips on a $25 check.”
No report on the generosity of the Russian fans, but a two-dollar tip on a $25 dollar bar tab in the middle of an event is heroically frugal.

Hey, guess what, Canadians.  It's not your country.  You're don't get to come and go as you please simply because you're Canadian.  Run out of things to do in Canada?  Feel like making your way to the United States by air or sea?  Just pony up the $5.50.  You can always stiff your waiter later on.  You're entitled.