Canada seeks fees to pay for bolstered air security

Thu Feb 25, 2010 5:10pm EST
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The government proposed increased surcharges on air travelers on Thursday to help pay for high-tech body scanners and other measures at airports to beef up security.

The extra levy is part of Ottawa's decision to add C$1.5 billion ($1.4 billion) to the budget of the Canadian Air Transportation Security Authority, the agency responsible for screening passengers and luggage at the country's 89 airports.

Transport Minister John Baird said the government will ask Parliament to approve the passenger fees and aims for them to go into effect on April 1. Lawmakers reconvene next Wednesday after an extended break,

He suggested the security steps were overdue but the government had not wanted to burden consumers or airlines during the recession. Users, rather than taxpayers in general, should bear the extra cost, he said.

"Last year we couldn't have considered taking this action because we needed to know Canada's economy was on its way to recovery," Baird told reporters.

"Now there is evidence that we are and that Air Canada, WestJet and Porter, for example, are all in demonstrably better positions than they were just one short year ago," he said.

The country's top two airlines posted better than expected quarterly results earlier this month, Air Canada reported a sharply smaller loss and WestJet Airlines had a better-than-expected profit.

(Reporting by Louise Egan; Editing by Frank McGurty)