By ROY WOOD
Town council agreed Monday to provide moral support toward a lobbying effort to convince Ottawa to reinstitute a program that refunds GST payments to foreign visitors returning to the U.S.
Local duty-free store owner Cam Bissonnette described the Road Travel Rebate Incentive Program (RoadTRIP) as a three-year pilot project that would encourage “our southern neighbors to travel to Canada and leave money at the businesses in our communities.”
The campaign has been undertaken by the Frontier Duty Free Association, which represents 28 of the 31 land border duty-free stores in Canada.
Essentially, the program would allow travellers leaving the country by land to present receipts for goods purchased in Canada and to receive a rebate for the five-per-cent GST paid on the items.
The rebates would be available only at one of the federally regulated duty-free stores.
According to a brochure accompanying Bissonnette’s presentation, duty free locations are the “only locations where (the) export of goods can be immediately verified.”
RoadTRIP would replicate the similar Visitor Rebate Program (VRP), which was cancelled by the federal government in 2007. Bissonnette wrote that under the VRP “over 70 per cent of customers, when they received their money back at the duty-free stores would spend back in the stores.”
The brochure quoted Econometrics Research Limited estimates that RoadTRIP provides a potential for: an $89.6-million increase in GDP; $55.6 million in wages and salaries; and 1,374 full-time job equivalents. Costs to the federal treasury are estimated at between $5.2 and $9 million.
Bissonnette provided council with a template of a letter to the federal finance minister urging him to consider the program as part of the 2016 budget. The letter emphasizes the potential economic benefits to border towns like Osoyoos.
On the recommendation of chief administrative officer Barry Romanko, council decided to write its own, shorter version.