Friday, April 20, 2018

Provincial trade barriers OK'd by Canada's Supreme Court

Supreme Court upholds law prohibiting Canadians, wherever they live, from buying beer wherever they want | The Star - Tonda MacCharles:

April 19, 2018 - ""Gerard Comeau wasn’t the only one shaking his head when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Thursday there is no 'constitutional guarantee of free trade' within Canada.

"'Money’s more important than liberties, I guess,' said the 64-year-old retired linesman.... Comeau’s bid to strike down the [New Brunswick] Liquor Control Act’s limits on cross-border beer shopping failed, but he became the champion of free-traders across Canada.

"Now some of his supporters hope all the attention his case, and the social media campaign dubbed #freethebeer, brought to the issue will galvanize provincial and federal leaders to drop barriers they say add $50 billion to $130 billion in extra costs to goods and services that cross provincial borders....

"The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the 1867 constitution did not impose 'an absolute free trade regime within Canada' ... [and] any decision to knock down interprovincial trade barriers would be a political one.... It cited the 'need to maintain balance' ... as long as the law’s primary purpose is not aimed at blocking trade across provincial borders.

"Any other interpretation, warned the court, could lead to a whole slew of laws being invalidated: environmental or public health regulations, agricultural controls on the production and distribution of eggs, dairy or poultry, for example, and 'innumerable' other exercises of provincial jurisdiction."

"Lawyer Howard Anglin, of the Canadian Constitutional Foundation, which intervened at the high court in support of Comeau’s arguments, ... believes the ruling actually provides an opportunity for a federal government or federal party leader to push to lower trade barriers, using the federal power to regulate trade and commerce....

"Freer trade between provinces could be a windfall for the provinces, said Anglin, who pointed to a senate committee report that accepted findings by Trevor Tombe and Lukas Albrecht. They say interprovincial barriers cost each Canadian household about $7,500 a year."

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