The Supreme Court case of a New Brunswick man caught driving home with cheap booze from Quebec will hear arguments from a wide range of businesses, organizations and associations across the country at a hearing later this year.
The country’s highest court has granted intervener status to all 12 applicants in the case of Gerard Comeau of Tracadie, who exceeded cross-border alcohol limits by importing 14 cases of beer and three bottles of liquor.
At issue is whether Section 121 of the Constitution Act prohibits all trade barriers — be they federal or provincial, tariffs or non-tariff restrictions that make importing and exporting products difficult or costly.
Each of the interveners will be permitted to file written arguments not exceeding 10 pages before Nov. 21 and present oral arguments not exceeding five minutes at the hearing in Ottawa, set for Dec. 5 and 6, the Supreme Court ruled this week.
Comeau, a retired NB Power linesman, was stopped by the RCMP in 2012 and fined $292.50 for violating the New Brunswick Liquor Control Act, which sets a personal importation limit of 12 pints of beer or one bottle of alcohol or wine.
But Campbellton provincial court Judge Ronald LeBlanc ruled in April 2016 that the liquor restriction was unconstitutional because Section 121 of the 1867 Constitution Act says products from any province “shall … be admitted free into each of the other provinces.”
New Brunswick prosecutors are appealing LeBlanc’s decision to the Supreme Court of Canada after the province’s highest court refused to review the matter.
They contend that upholding Comeau’s acquittal would “propose an end to Canadian federalism as it was originally conceived, has politically evolved and is judicially confirmed” by the Supreme Court itself, which has previously held Section 121 prohibits only “customs duties,” or interprovincial tariffs.
Industry seeks freer trade
The majority of the interveners are industry-related, ranging from small wineries to beer giants. They are seeking freer interprovincial trade.
Other applicants, including a marijuana advocacy group, business and consumer organizations, a courier service, a think tank and agriculture supply management associations, contend the case is about much more than provincial monopolies on alcohol and could have far-reaching constitutional and economic implications.
None of the interveners will be entitled to “raise new issues or to adduce further evidence or otherwise to supplement the record of the parties,” the Supreme Court ruled.
The attorneys general of Canada, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories and the Nunavut minister of Justice have also been granted permission to present oral arguments not exceeding 10 minutes at the hearing.
They previously filed notices of intervention and are automatically granted the right to make submissions on the constitutional issue.
The successful intervener applicants include:
- Liquidity Wines Ltd., Painted Rock Estate Winery Ltd., 50th Parallel Estate Limited Partnership, Okanagan Crush Pad Winery Ltd., and Noble Ridge Vineyard and Winery Limited Partnership.
- Artisan Ales Consulting Inc.
- Canadian Vintners Association.
- Association of Canadian Distillers, operating as Spirits Canada.
- Canada’s National Brewers, advocates for Canada’s largest and oldest brewers, Molson and Labatt.
- Alberta Small Brewers Association.
- Cannabis Culture.
- Consumers Council of Canada.
- Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
- The Dairy Farmers of Canada, Egg Farmers of Canada, Chicken Farmers of Canada, Turkey Farmers of Canada, and the Canadian Hatching Egg Producers.
- Federal Express Canada.
- Montreal Economic Institute.
Source : cbc