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Quebec’s Îles-de-la-Madeleine won’t impose tourist fee after all

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Quebec’s Îles-de-la-Madeleine says it won’t charge a mandatory $30 fee for visitors travelling to the archipelago, citing logistical issues for the system some said infringed on people’s freedom to travel within the country.

But the municipality says it’s not backing off from the idea of collecting funds from tourists to help maintain infrastructure and protect the environment. Instead, it said Tuesday in a news release it will “appeal to visitors’ honour” and ask that they make a voluntary contribution, at least for this year.

A spokesperson for the municipality told The Canadian Press the decision came down to “operational reasons” — lacking the capacity to verify if tourists paid the $30 fee when flying out from the islands.

The news release said the municipality was “still in negotiations with Transport Canada on the operational plan” to impose the tourist fee.

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In April, Îles-de-la-Madeleine Mayor Antonin Valiquette said the fee was necessary because the 60,000 annual tourists are burdening local services and straining existing municipal revenue for the archipelago of roughly 13,000 residents located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

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“Let’s be clear. We’re not backing away from the notion of contribution,” Valiquette told a news conference on Tuesday. “But since we’re pioneers in this area, it’s normal to adjust during this first year.”

When the municipality announced it would impose a tourist fee between May 1 and Oct. 14 for domestic and international travellers who stay on the islands for more than 24 hours, islanders were concerned the plan would infringe on the freedom of Quebecers and other Canadians to travel within their own country.

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As part of the original plan, individuals who failed to comply risked a $1,000 fine.

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While Valiquette said that “positive messages have poured in” from the public, he added the municipality has also received “inappropriate, sometimes hateful comments” as well as “unverified information that has sidetracked the debate and degraded the archipelago’s social climate.”

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