RCC has successfully changed the language of the debate around the new personal exemption limits, which took effect at the border today. We have seen increasing evidence that government and media understand that many of the underlying reasons for the Canada-U.S. price differential are beyond the control of retailers. This has generated increasing support for the government to introduce changes, such as the elimination of import tariffs, in order to level the playing field.
On March 29, 2012 the Federal Government announced that they would be raising these limits as part of their Economic Action Plan 2012. Starting today, Canadian residents will see increases to travellers' personal exemption limits, bringing the total value of goods that may be imported free of duties and taxes to CAN$200 for absences of 24 hours or more, and CAN$800 for absences of 48 hours or more.
RCC has taken a number of actions on this issue, with excellent results.
RCC has been raising concerns with the changes since the announcement. Yesterday, Thursday May 31, President and CEO Diane Brisebois appeared before the Standing Committee on Finance for its study on Bill C-38, Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act. She also appeared before the Senate Committee on National Finance on April 24th. The senators were very receptive to the information, and it spawned hundreds of media interviews, stories and web postings.
On both occasions, Diane provided an assessment of the factors which contribute to the U.S-Canada price discrepancy. She also discussed the negative impact of cross border shopping on Canadian retailers.
You, our members, have signed more than 1000 urging Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to establish an environment where Canadian retailers can compete on a level playing field. These letters will be delivered to Minister Flaherty in the next few weeks.
On May 9, Senator Ringuette released a press release showing her continued support for retailers.
June 1, RCC together with the Chambers of Commerce of Surrey (BC), Winnipeg (MB), Altona (MB), Niagara Falls (ON) and Fredericton (NB) issued a media release calling for the government to take action to level the retail playing field.
All week long RCC has been doing interviews on the cross border issue. Today's media release has created an enormous amount of additional interest. RCC spokespeople from coast to coast have done approximately 60 media interviews this week alone on the issue. Eighteen CBC radio interviews alone were completed by 9 a.m. (ET) for CBC affiliates from St. Johns, Nfld. To Victoria, BC.
It is significant that the reporters and producers have been increasingly sympathetic to retailers regarding the barriers retailers face. This is a reversal of the attitude that emerged when the issue of U.S. /Canada price disparities first became a media topic.
RCC will continue to raise concerns with these changes and their detrimental effect on the retail industry in Canada requesting that the government take immediate action to level the playing field by eliminating outdated tariffs and making changes to the supply management system in Canada.