Read their lips

Stephen Harper is on record as saying that, so long as he’s Prime Minister, “there will be no new taxes.” Yesterday, Mr. Harper’s Industry Minister suggested there will be some new user fees.

“We are encouraging departments to develop a full range of options in areas such as administrative and program efficiencies, business consolidation and user fees,” he said, according to a prepared text of the speech.

At least one branch of government is already preparing the groundwork for new legislation that would hike user fees in the agriculture sector. The Canadian Grain Commission recently completed consultations that will pave the way for a doubling of user fees to certify the quality, safety and weight of Canadian grain.

What’s the difference between a tax and a user fee? Good question. Take, for instance, the Airport Travellers Security Charge. When John Baird announced an increase to the ATSC in 2010, the Harper government described it as a “user fee.” When the Liberal government reduced the ATSC in 2003, Mr. Harper described it as an “air tax.”

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