Thank you very much for your question, Mr. Ste-Marie.
The visitor rebate program was intended for all tourists visiting Canada. For example, American or European tourists who made purchases or booked hotel rooms in Canada could be reimbursed for the federal tax, the GST, that they had paid. We—the Canadian duty-free stores at the U.S. border—provided the tax rebate service right in our stores. It was a very popular program with the Americans.
Unfortunately, this program was abolished in 2007, for reasons that seem somewhat obscure to us. The program was actually working very well. I can tell you that, even 10 years later, Americans were still coming to our stores, receipts in hand, asking for the tax rebate. They had come to Canada 10 years earlier and, after other trips around the world, when they were back in Canada, they came back to our store to get the tax rebate because they remembered our good service. We are the only OECD country that does not refund its federal tax to visitors. It would help all the tourism businesses in Canada, such as hotels. So it's a very important program.
In terms of the export designation, it is important to note that duty-free stores around the world, including those in Canada, must purchase their products directly from the manufacturers. In order for visitors leaving the country to take advantage of this market, the products are absolutely tax free, except in Canada. In Canada, the federal government collects an excise tax on all export tobacco products. For example, an American who comes to Canada and wants to buy a carton of cigarettes before returning home will have to pay an excise tax on Canadian-made cigarettes.
In addition, provincial governments mark up the prices of alcohol through the various liquor boards, such as the SAQ in Quebec and the LCBO in Ontario. We are forced to purchase alcohol from these monopolies, and they, as wholesalers, apply outrageous markup rates that are not in line with the intent of the trade laws.
We are therefore asking for legislation that would govern Canadian duty-free stores, especially border stores. At the very least, we're asking that certain Canadian laws not apply to these stores, so that we can compete with the American duty-free stores that are 200 metres south of us. They sell to those entering Canada products that they have purchased directly from the manufacturers without paying tax, which we cannot do in Canada. For these reasons, we are requesting an export sector designation.
Thank you very much.