Canadian Manufacturing

Interprovincial beer controversy fuels floor fight in House of Commons

"Fathers of Confederation intended Canada not just to be a political union but an economic one," Conservatives critic says, introducing new motion


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OTTAWA—Members of the House of Commons are debating an Opposition motion arising from the recent ruling on cross-border beer shopping in New Brunswick.

The motion tabled by the federal Conservatives calls on the federal government to refer the ruling to the Supreme Court for review, given the implications for interprovincial trade.

New Brunswick provincial court Judge Ronald LeBlanc tossed out all charges against Gerard Comeau, who was charged with illegally importing 14 cases of beer and three bottles of liquor from a Quebec border town in 2012.

Dan Albas, the official Opposition critic for Interprovincial Trade, says the ruling needs to be referred to the Supreme Court so that Section 121 of the Constitution can be clarified.

“The Fathers of Confederation intended Canada not just to be a political union but an economic one, and it’s an inherent constitutional right,” Albas said June 14.

The motion also calls on the House to recognize that it is a constitutional right for Canadians to trade with Canadians.

“We know that there are Canadian producers that want to sell their products,” Albas said.

“We know there are consumers right across this great country that want to buy Canadian and support Canadian and we want these trade barriers torn down. The most effective way to do that is to have a Supreme Court ruling.”

Last month, the New Brunswick government filed a notice of appeal saying the judge in the Comeau case erred in his interpretation of Section 121, which deals with the movement of goods between provinces.

Defence lawyer Arnold Schwisberg described the ruling in the Comeau case as “groundbreaking” and said it will have national impact far beyond saving Maritimers money on the cost of their beer.

He said the ruling could have the power to shift a host of laws across the country governing everything from selling chickens to how engineers and other professionals work across provincial lines.


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