10/26/2011 09:04 EDT | Updated 12/26/2011 05:12 EST

Will the NDP Stand Up For Consumers?

It was nice to see the NDP out there defending Canadians from the recent $5.50 U.S. surcharge that will be applied to tickets sold to Canadian air and ship travellers who visit the United States. When President Obama signed this into law on Oct. 21, he removed Canada's exemption which had been in place since 1997.

This extra cost won't stop Canadians from flying to the U.S. for business or pleasure, and the Americans know that. I can see some justification for this surcharge as at least it goes for border services, unlike the different surcharges that airlines add to the cost of the ticket which are a consumer ripoff. Most of those, including surcharges for extra bags just gouge the traveller. The airlines, like the American government know that we will grumble about them but still pay and fly. Will the NDP take on the airlines and government for all of the extra charges or fees that we pay to travel to the United States?

Obama's $5.50 surcharge is pretty much what I would pay if I were to cross the toll bridge in Cornwall to go shop in the United States. If I were to buy a couple of pounds of butter or some eggs and milk, I have more than covered that $5.50. The same applies for anyone flying to the USA. There are quite a few items you can buy in which the price differential between Canada and the United States is such that buying the product there more than offsets the $5.50 user fee Obama has imposed.

And while the NDP is so concerned about what Canadians pay, what about all of those marketing boards that inflate the price Canadian consumers pay? There are over 80 marketing boards in Canada if we include both federal and provincial ones. Will the NDP push to eliminate those federal boards that artificially set prices or quotas? Will they push to eliminate boards that help to keep our egg, butter, dairy and chicken prices higher than those just across the river in the USA? I doubt they will.

I doubt it, because like both the Liberals and Conservatives before them, they don't want to lose votes, particularly in Quebec. It does cause a bit of head scratching though to see the Conservatives hell bent to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board while steadfastly supporting supply management in other areas. It seems for politicians of all stripes, political expediency always trumps consumer protection. Stand as they will in the House of Commons to rail at the government benches on this issue, the NDP will bow to the election gods in Quebec on supply management.

If the NDP wants an issue that will rally consumers behind them, they should be focusing on the price differential for the same products sold in Canada and the USA. This is an issue every Canadian voter can understand and there are many different examples the opposition can use.

The NDP are blowing smoke on this issue, if they really wanted to protect Canadian consumers, they have plenty of targets other than the Americans.