Five small BC wineries, intervening on behalf of a coalition of more than 100 BC wineries, had their day in court on December 7. The wineries were represented by Coulson Litigation. The R. v. Comeau hearing addressed the legal barriers to inter-provincial shipping of Canadian wine, and how it has negatively impacted consumer choice, as well as threatening the local wine industry itself.
"The Court was engaged in a deep debate about whether to expand the constitutional guarantee for a national common market in Canada, and if so, to what extent," reflects Coulson.
"The Court was particularly concerned with judges entering too far into the policy jurisdiction of the democratically-elected provincial governments. At the same time, they recognized that the current situation regarding national distribution of liquor is not ideal."
The case is a constitutional challenge, stemming from when Gerard Comeau was stopped and fined in 2012, after carrying purchased beverage alcohol from Quebec across the New Brunswick border. The challenge is to convince the court to uphold the "letter and spirit" of the 1867 Constitution, to provide some level of constitutional guarantee of free trade.
The majority of non-government interveners, as well as most Canadians (89 per cent, according to a recent Ipsos poll), side with Comeau. If the constitutional interpretation ends up reducing interprovincial trade barriers, it will become easier for individuals as well as industry to access a national market, potentially contributing an additional $50 to $130 billion to the gross domestic product.
The outcome of the case, expected to be decided in 2018, will determine the extent to which Canada is a national common market for Canadian-made liquor.
Other interveners included the attorneys general from almost every province and territory, as well as representatives from the Canadian Vintners Association, the Association of Canadian Distillers, Canada's National Brewers, Cannabis Culture, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Canadian Federation of Independent Business, among others.
Source: Town Hall Brands December 7, 2017 news release