Ontarians returning home from U.S. shopping sprees will now be able to declare their goods at the border without stopping and be billed for duties and taxes on their credit cards.
"People will be able to pay by credit card", Canada Customs spokesman Dan Yen said. "We don't think there will be a high rate of abuse."
Yen said motorists who frequently cross the border will have to apply for a free Canpass card, which gives them access to a dedicated lane on the Whirlpool Bridge, where the pilot program begins next month. He said other major southern Ontario border crossings will be implementing the system in two years.
Yen said Canpass shoppers returning home will fill out a declaration form which will be left at a drop box. They will then be billed duties and taxes on their Visa or Mastercard.
Those who apply for the pass will undergo security checks, which means listing a criminal record, passport and credit card numbers, personal and vehicle information, Yen said.
"We feel this is a good program for low-risk travellers", Yen said. "Most of these people are low risk."
He said motorists who abuse the system will be charged under the Customs Act and will have their cards revoked.
Yen said the program will also relieve traffic congestion on the Rainbow and Queenston Bridges in Niagara Falls.
But Ronny Moran, president of the Customs Excise Union, said the Canpass program will encourage impaired drivers and criminal activity, including the smuggling of pornography, drugs and weapons.
"There'll be less officers on the frontline to speak to people", Moran said. "The potential is huge for criminal activity."
He said the union is also concerned about the privacy of the information supplied by Canpass subscribers.