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William Watson: "What I Said"

October 25th, 2007

Last week I mockingly suggested the National Post writers read At Home in Hespeler for their column ideas. As they have twice (maybe three times) turned down columns I have sent them, I would consider this bad form – but we’ll let that pass.

On Tuesday I wrote that Jim Flaherty, if he was serious about lowering prices in the retail sector, would “Remove the duty on goods consumers bring back into Canada upon leaving the country.” I hadn’t heard the suggestion before, or since. Until today. William Watson, writing in the Financial Post today, suggested the exact same thing:

…he [Flaherty] could raise the limits on Canadian travellers’ duty-free exemptions. Right now you can bring back a measly $50 duty-free if you’re out of the country 24 hours. A minister who really wanted to stand up for consumers and make Canadian retailers sit up and take notice would make that $1,000. Stay out a week, bring back $10,000 worth, no questions asked. That would close the price gap lickety-split.

Stand up, Mr. Flaherty!

Even the headline on the story says:

Tear down that border, Mr. Flaherty!
If he wants to eliminate Canada-U.S. price differences, he should start by hiking duty-free allowances

Meanwhile, here’s what I wrote:

I have an idea for Jim Flaherty: want to see the market kick into gear? Remove the duty on goods consumers bring back into Canada upon leaving the country. No need to be away 48 hours for a $400 duty free (or 7 and $750). One day in the U.S., bring back as much consumer goods as you please (booze and cigarettes subject to the usual rules, of course). This would create competition with American retailers, forcing Canadian retailers to bring their prices more in line with American prices.

This way, you see, I could get up Saturday and say, Hey! Let’s go shopping! Couple of hours later wee’re in Buffalo, buy a big screen TV, 5.5 Surround sound system for it, a HDDVD, and a bunch of DVD’s. Back at the border:

“How Long have you been out of the country?”
“Couple of Hours.”
“Anything to declare?”
“Four-thousand-five-hundred and seventy-two dollars worth of goods.”
“Any liquor or tobacco?”
“have a nice day, sir.”

Jim Flaherty says he wants the markets to work for Canadians. That’s how they would work, by adding competition, not by some busybody politicians harassing sellers.

Coincidence? You be the judge. I do, however, confess I didn’t use the word lickety-split, although I wish I did.

The Media Following My Lead.

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