VICTORIA — Complaints from British Columbia wine industry over interprovincial trade barriers will be heard in the Supreme Court of Canada as part of an appeal of a cross-border beer dispute in New Brunswick.
Vancouver lawyer Shea Coulson said Thursday five B.C. wineries will argue as interveners in the case stemming from a 2012 incident when police fined a man $292.50 after he entered New Brunswick from Quebec with 14 cases of beer and three bottles of liquor.
Gerald Comeau was originally fined under New Brunswick’s Liquor Control Act for bringing in too much alcohol, but a provincial court judge tossed the case, saying it violated free-trade provisions in the constitution.
The New Brunswick government appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada, claiming the decision threatens to end Canadian federalism as it was originally conceived.
Coulson said the case to be heard in December is the first time any winery has had the opportunity to test the legal barriers over shipping wine made from Canadian grapes across provincial boundaries.
“My client’s perspective is obviously from the perspective of the wine industry and how these interprovincial barriers to them shipping their products into other provinces are an impediment to the growth of the entire sector,” he said.
Coulson said he will argue the provincial barriers threaten the existence of wineries who need to tap into a national distribution network to grow their businesses.
He said no matter what the court decides, the ruling could have a monumental impact on the Canadian liquor industry.
“These types of (interprovincial barrier) provisions exist across Canada,” Coulson said. “So, it’s a template for how all liquor monopolies operate in every province and because it’s a constitutional decision, any decision by the Supreme Court in this case is going to apply across Canada,” said Coulson.
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