I don’t know Gerard Comeau, but he's my hero.
Comeau is the New Brunswick man who -- rather than pay a fine for buying beer legally in Canada and taking it home -- is fighting back against an over zealous liquor commission.
He was in court last week to say that fining him for buying beer in Quebec and then driving back to his house in New Brunswick is actually unconstitutional.
Comeau and his legal team argued that charging him for buying beer from Canada, inside Canada and then taking it to his home, still in Canada, violated section 121 of the Constitution which states:
“All Articles of the Growth, Produce, or Manufacture of any one of the Provinces shall, from and after the Union, be admitted free into each of the other Provinces.”
That (and Section 91 of the Constitution, stating that the federal government is in charge of regulating trade and commerce) should be good enough to get Comeau off. But we know provincial governments have been trying to stop trade between the provinces since Confederation -- even though ending those trade impediments was part of the impetus for Confederation in the first place.
New Brunswick limits residents to bringing one bottle of wine or spirits, and about 18 bottles or cans of beer, back from another province.
A quick look at prices might tell you why.
Let me pick on Coors Light, probably the best selling beer in the country. In New Brunswick the government store charges $45.95 for 28 cans.
You can get 30 cans in Quebec for about $30.
In 2012, Parliament, with support from all parties, unanimously passed Bill C-311. That dropped a federal ban on taking booze between provinces; it was a repeal of a law passed during Prohibition.
But few provinces took up the challenge. Here in Ottawa, lots of people head to Quebec to get cheap beer just across the river. And lots of people from Quebec cross the short bridge to buy cheaper wine here. They could be breaking the law.
I just found out I’ve likely broken the law more than once.
Gerard Comeau lost his 14 cases of beer and was fined $292 for buying a legal product in Canada and taking it home.
I asked Prime Minister Stephen Harper his thoughts on this Monday at a campaign stop in Ottawa. Here's what he said:
That's why we brought in federal legislation. It does require mirror legislation at the provincial level. A couple of provinces have proceeded with similar legislation. Not all have, but obviously I would, in my campaign mode, non-partisan way, urge all provinces to adopt that legislation.
I’d be willing to bet that Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau would say the same thing.
But the question is: Will any of them force the provinces to actually stop these practices?
No Canadian should face legal sanction, not even a fine, for buying a legal product and moving it from one part of the country to another.
Comeau wasn’t opening his own beer store. Even if he was picking up a few cases for friends and neighbours -- big deal!
I could buy five beds or sofas or dishwashers in another province, more than I need for my own use and no one would bother me for bringing it home. It should be the same with booze.
It is time we had free trade inside our own borders.
READ Brian Lilley's book CBC Exposed -- it's been called "the political book of the year.”
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