APTN National News, Feb 11, 2014
OTTAWA–The federal government is continuing its battle against the underground Mohawk tobacco trade by giving the RCMP new high-tech border surveillance tools, according to the federal budget unveiled Tuesday.
The federal government is investing $91.7 million over five years to increase the RCMP’s “intelligence-led policing efforts” in its cat-and-mouse game with the black market Mohawk tobacco trade.
The money will be used to create a Geospatial Intelligence and Automatic Dispatch Centre which will rely on a number of sensor devices spread along the Canada-U.S. border between the Quebec-Maine frontier and Oakville, Ont., which sits on Lake Ontario and across from New York State.
The sensor devices will include radar, sonar, unmanned ground sensors, mobile posts and long-range thermal video cameras “to enable RCMP officers to respond in real-time to high-risk alerts.”
A federal official, speaking on background, said the high-tech surveillance is focusing on the Quebec-Ontario border with the U.S. because it’s the hot spot for contraband tobacco where there are “a number of reserves.”
The Mohawk community of Akwesasne straddles the Canada-U.S. border and sits about 120 kilometres west of Montreal. The majority of black market tobacco is moved by Mohawks from Akwesasne with routes running to the Mohawk communities of Kahnawake and Kanesatake, near Montreal, and Tyendinaga, near Belleville, Ont.
The federal government is also increasing its federal excise duty on cigarettes which has remained stagnant since 2002. The changes will add about 40 cents to the price of a pack of 20 cigarettes and pump a carton of 200 cigarettes from $17 to $21.03. The federal budget will also increase the “duty free” price of cigarettes from $15 a carton to $21.03 a carton.
The federal budget estimates that the changes will bring in an additional $685 million in 2014-15 and $660 million in 2015-2016.
Ottawa will also now peg tobacco tax rates to the Consumer Price Index.