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Supreme Court upholds law in cross-border beer case

Last Updated Apr 19, 2018 at 9:05 am PDT

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Summary

High court says provinces have the power to enact laws that restrict commerce if there is an overriding purpose

Supreme Court case stemmed from man who brought booze back to New Brunswick from Quebec and was fined

OTTAWA – The Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed the constitutionality of a New Brunswick law that ensnared a man who brought home beer and liquor from neighbouring Quebec.

The unanimous high court decision today effectively preserves the current trade regime, saying provinces have the power to enact laws that restrict commerce if there is another overriding purpose — in this case the desire to control the supply of alcohol within New Brunswick.

In October 2012, Gerard Comeau of Tracadie, N.B., drove across the border to Quebec to buy several cases of beer and some liquor from three stores.

Comeau was fined $240 and administrative fees under New Brunswick’s Liquor Control Act for being in possession of a large amount of alcohol he had not purchased through his province’s liquor corporation.

The trial judge accepted Comeau’s argument the Liquor Control Act provision amounted to a trade barrier that violated Section 121 of the Constitution Act, 1867.

The New Brunswick attorney general was denied leave to challenge the trial judge’s decision in the provincial Court of Appeal, but the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, ultimately siding with the province.