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Wine industry disappointed with supreme court ruling


May 1, 2018
By Canadian Vintners Association

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The Canadian Vintners Association (CVA) and its members recently expressed disappointment with the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling on Her Majesty the Queen v. Gerard Comeau. The case challenged restrictions on interprovincial trade, an issue the CVA has been working on for over a decade.

“We respect the Court’s ruling but are disappointed at this missed opportunity to remove interprovincial trade restrictions,” said Dan Paszkowski, president & CEO of the CVA. “Removing restrictions would have opened the door to allowing consumers to order wine for direct delivery to their home from any Canadian winery located in any province. We call that Direct-to-Consumer, it is something nine out of 10 Canadians believe should be permitted, and we now eagerly await the provinces making this choice available to their citizens.”

In October 2012, Gerard Comeau of New Brunswick purchased beer and spirits in Quebec and drove back to New Brunswick. He was charged with possessing liquor purchased from outside the province in quantities that exceeded the province’s prescribed limit, an offence under section 134 of the New Brunswick Liquor Control Act.

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The trial judge held that section 134(b) of the Liquor Control Act constitutes a trade barrier (violating section 121 of the Constitution Act, 1867) and dismissed the charge against Mr. Comeau.

The case subsequently made its way to the Supreme Court and recently concluded with the trial judge erred in overturning binding precedent and that although Section 121 prohibits laws that in their essence and purpose impede the passage of goods across provincial borders, it does not prohibit laws that yield only incidental effects on interprovincial trade.

“We will continue our work with the federal / provincial / territorial governments’ Alcoholic Beverages Working Group to allow interprovincial wine delivery from wineries to consumers,” continued Paszkowski. “It’s important to recognize that interprovincial trade barriers affect a range of industries, including wine.”

Unfair interprovincial trade barriers have impeded Canada’s wine industry growth and prevented consumers from purchasing the Canadian wines of their choice.

“We are disappointed that the Court didn’t express stronger views on the need to remove interprovincial trade barriers,” said Paul A. Bosc, president & CEO, Château des Charmes. “Most wine sold in Canada is imported largely because it is so difficult for Canadians to obtain wines from any province other than the one they live in. No other wine producing country has these kinds of restrictions.”

Canada’s wine industry had seen the ruling as a way to open the doors to direct-to-consumer wine purchases across the country, something consumers believe should be done.

Direct-to-Consumer would lead to important growth for the country’s highest value agricultural industry. Indeed, free interprovincial trade would positively impact the economy across the country. Industry research shows that for every $1.00 spent on Canadian wine in Canada, $3.42 in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is generated across the country.


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