Comeau booze battle before the Supreme Court

By Yves Faguy December 6, 20176 December 2017

Comeau booze battle before the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of Canada is hearing arguments today in the “free-the-beer” case (R. v. Comeau)

What’s the issue?

Five years ago, Gerard Comeau was arrested and fined for bringing beer he purchased in Québec into New Brunswick. Comeau is challenging the constitutionality of section 134 of the New Brunswick’s Liquor Control Act that limits the quantity of alcohol that can be brought into the province by an individual. The trial judge declared the contested provision unconstitutional, as it amounted to a trade barrier in violation of section 121 of the Constitution Act, 1867, which stipulates that goods must “be admitted free into each of the other provinces.” That, Comeau is arguing, prohibits both tariffs and non-tariff barriers. The Court of Appeal of New Brunswick dismissed the application for leave to appeal, and the Supreme Court granted leave in May.

In a 2016 post, Ian A Blue wrote:

The question involved in the appeal of the Comeau decision is the correctness of the finding by the trial judge that s. 121 of the Constitution Act, 1867 guarantees interprovincial free trade. The subsidiary questions are whether provincial powers under s. 92 and the federal powers under s. 91 of the Constitution Act, 1867 are also subordinate to s. 121, questions that arise directly from the reasoning in the Comeau decision.

Why it’s important

Earlier this year, new free trade rules came into force between the provinces under the Canadian Free Trade Agreement, which carves out a number exceptions for sectors the provinces insist on keeping shielded from competition, including dairy, procurement and alcohol. The legality of those demands are now being put to the test. A ruling striking down New Brunswick’s liquor laws help bring down the numerous other provincial trade barriers.

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Tammi 4/15/2018 9:15:08 PM

Things have been very quiet - shouldn't we have heard the verdict by now?

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