U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer Wednesday said he is introducing legislation that would prohibit the federal government from charging new fees on Canadians who enter the U.S. by boat or plane.
Schumer made the announcement in Watertown at a press conference at the Paddock Arcade.
Under new authority granted in the Colombian Free Trade Agreement, Customs and Border Protection now has the authority to charge each Canadian visitor who enters the United States by sea or air a $5.50 fee. Schumer notes that this could be a devastating blow to tourism in the North Country, and put a serious dent in the fishing industry throughout Northern New York.
While the fee does not apply to visitors who travel by car, Schumer noted that the fees can create a perception that trips to the United States by any means are becoming more expensive, resulting in a decrease in tourism.
Schumer also hopes to avoid a scenario in which the Canadians retaliate against U.S. policy by implementing their own fees, which would keep New Yorkers from visiting their favorite spots in Canada.
According to a 2009 study conducted by Tourism Economics, tourism helped support about 7% of all jobs in the Thousand Islands area. Tourism spending grew by over 3.5%. Tourism pumped over $430,000,000 into the north country economy over the course of the year, supporting over 8,300 jobs.
Jefferson County accounted for half of the region's tourism sales, with approximately $218 million in visitor spending. Tourism helped provide over $96 million in income for Jefferson County workers, and over $45 million in wages for tourism workers in St. Lawrence County.
Waterrtown Mayor Jeffrey Graham introduced Schumer, whose remarks were supported by state Assemblywoman Addie Russell.