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Title - The View from Dundas
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Follow Me on TwitterPhillip Blancher is a writer, web geek and communications professional by trade. He has written for a number of publications in Eastern Ontario and Northern New York State and also was a weekly morning show contributor for two area radio stations. As a resident of South Dundas for the last seven years, this long-time political buff has taken on an appreciation of small-town/rural life while also being a father of four and a soccer coach. Blancher's columns on OurHometown.ca will cover a range of his interests from politics, parenthood, local history and on his favourite NHL team, the Buffalo Sabres. If you have questions or wish to contact Phillip, you can email him at pblancher@ourhometown.ca
Cross-border shopping isn't the real cause of business woes
Phillip Blancher
OurHometown.ca

Cross-border shopping isn
One of the more interesting aspects of the Federal Budget last week was the increase of the personal exceptions on travel to the United States. More perplexing was Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry MP Guy Lauzon's comments that this was one of the suggestions that came from our area that had the good fortune of being part of the budget.
PHOTO CREDIT - CBC.ca

South Dundas - April 3, 2012 - One of the more interesting aspects of the Federal Budget last week was the increase of the personal exceptions on travel to the United States. More perplexing was Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry MP Guy Lauzon's comments that this was one of the suggestions that came from our area that had the good fortune of being part of the budget. HUH? While I did not attend the "pre-budget" meetings that Lauzon held this year, I heard that they were mostly attended by business people. I don't know many business people who'd applaud more exemptions to encourage cross-border shopping.

Is the cross-border exemption really an issue though for border communities? On the surface, it looks that way. Once the budget passes, a 24-hour visit to the US will allow you to bring back $200 per person. Stay 48-hours and it's $800 per person. That's a lot of shopping. However, in the Cornwall and SD&G area, one can drive to Plattsburgh, NY or Watertown, NY comfortably and return same day. Driving to Burlington Vermont is a bit more of a stretch but can be done. From that wide swath of area you have the northern Adirondacks, Malone, Massena, Potsdam and Ogdensburg. Retail stores from Old Navy to Target, Kohls to TJ-Maxx, K-Mart to Walmart. An average family can drive to Malone to go skiing, grab a bite to eat, shop at Walmart, stock up on groceries at Price Chopper and be home the same day. No exemptions given and HST is paid, only when the CBSA collects it on re-entry, which is not all the time.

So how do businesses here compete against cheaper prices in the US and easy day trips? In order to compete fairly, there needs to be a level playing field between the countries and with NAFTA, good luck with that. Sales tax is lower, wages are lower, prices are lower, all in the United States. Agriculture in the US is subsidized at a much higher rate than in Canada, and marketing control boards on this side of the border don't help with prices. Add to that a vastly weakened US dollar that artificially inflates the value of the Loonie, it's hard to compete. Also, despite survey after survey asking consumers what stores people want to shop at in the area, those businesses are not locating themselves in Cornwall.

What is the solution to the retail woes in this area? Sell the location. Sell the savings in gas for not having to drive. Offer service. Offer the selection that will keep people here. When Brockville, which is half the size of Cornwall, has a Future Shop and a Super Walmart, is growing and thriving, despite the economy, you have to ask and answer those questions first. Then you have to act on it, and Cornwall sadly has not.

Blaming cross-border shopping isn't going to fix the retail woes here, although it plays well in the media. There will always be some bargain shoppers, but if consumers had the selection and products they wanted, there'd be less traffic crossing the St. Lawrence River.


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