Tuesday, May 17, 2016

NB enforces beer monopoly despite court ruling

Why New Brunswick is vowing to keep busting anyone importing beer, even after judge said it’s legal | Financial Post - John Williamson:

May 16, 2016 - "Heads the province wins, tails you lose. This appears to be the response of the Gallant government to the recent court decision declaring unconstitutional New Brunswick’s longstanding restrictions on bringing alcohol for personal consumption into the province. The government has until the end of the month to appeal Provincial Court Judge Ronald LeBlanc’s ruling that the law violates the Constitution’s free-trade provisions by blocking the flow of goods within Canada. But already New Brunswick’s Public Prosecutions Office is — despite the court ruling — threatening legal action against residents that enter New Brunswick with more alcohol than is permitted by the provincial government’s liquor regulations.

"New Brunswick resident Gérard Comeau was charged by the RCMP in 2012 and fined $295 for illegally bringing in 14 cases of beer and three bottles of liquor from a Quebec border town into his home province. Under the New Brunswick Liquor Control Act, it is a crime to purchase more than one bottle of liquor or wine or the equivalent of 12 pints of beer from retailers outside of the province. Consumers are instead forced to purchase spirits from the New Brunswick Liquor Corp., a government-owned monopoly that charges double the price for beer as Quebec. "

"According to Luc Labonté, director of the province’s Public Prosecutions Services, the law restricting liquor imports remains in effect because 'in theory' the court ruling applies only to the person who brought the case — Mr. Comeau.... The Supreme Court of Canada has stated only superior courts — not provincial courts — can invalidate a law. Consequently, Judge LeBlanc’s decision is not a binding legal precedent....

"Judge LeBlanc’s ruling, however, makes any conviction under New Brunswick’s law unlikely. After the Comeau decision, anyone charged with the offence of importing alcohol will plead 'not guilty,' knowing his or her trial will rely on the newly established precedent.

"The Canadian Constitution Foundation supported Mr. Comeau in the beer case. The group’s executive director Marni Soupcoff explained, 'It’s true that "in theory’ the law remains on the books, but it would be ridiculous for New Brunswick prosecutors to go to court to enforce it now that one of their own judges has plainly assessed it as unconstitutional.' Ms. Soupcoff believes charging other New Brunswick cross-border beer consumers would be a waste of time and money.

'But costly enforcement that wastes time and money could be exactly what the province intends....
The punishment for New Brunswick consumers wouldn’t be the conviction, but the lengthy and costly court process itself.... Most people will, quite sensibly, keep suffering overpriced alcohol in New Brunswick rather than risk having to fight for their rights."

Read more: http://business.financialpost.com/fp-comment/why-new-brunswick-is-vowing-to-keep-busting-anyone-importing-beer-even-after-judge-said-its-legal
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