The Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) was pleased to see the problems of Canada’s unconstitutional inter-provincial trade barriers featured in the July 23, 2016 edition of the Economist, perhaps the most influential global news magazine.
The CCF has been proud to join forces with lawyers Ian A. Blue, QC and Arnold Schwisberg to defend Gerard Comeau, who was fined for legally purchasing beer and spirits in Quebec and driving them home to New Brunswick.
As the Economist noted, “Canada’s constitution of 1867 mandates the free flow of commerce across the country. But leaders of the ten provinces and three territories have spent 149 years inventing creative ways to favour local firms or issuing regulations that unintentionally snarl trade through sheer complexity.”
We agree with everything except the word “unintentionally.”
The Government of New Brunswick knew exactly what it was doing when it prosecuted Mr Comeau. And if it didn’t then, it certainly knows now, after Judge Ronald LeBlanc threw out Mr Comeau’s fine and delivered an 88-page lecture on the original intention of the Fathers of Confederation to guarantee free trade within their new country.
The Economist hopes that this case will be a “spur to reform”, but for now New Brunswick does not appear to have learned its lesson. The Government has appealed Judge LeBlanc’s decision and the CCF is gearing up to support Mr Comeau’s rights - and the rights of all Canadians - in the Court of Appeal and, if necessary, all the way to the Supreme Court.
As the Economist concluded: “Provincial protectionism is not dead yet.” But with the CCF’s help, we hope one day all Canadians will be able to join Mr Comeau in raising a glass of Quebec beer at its wake.