Update: June 11, 2018
On May 11, 2018, an Appeal Panel, convened pursuant to the dispute resolution process of the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT), ruled that the Government of Alberta’s Small Brewers Development Program (ASBD Program) does not comply with the province’s free trade obligations under the AIT because it discriminates against out-of-province products and is a barrier to free trade within Canada.
With the help from the Canadian Constitution Foundation, Artisan Ales, a small Calgary owned-and-operated import agency, initiated a complaint against the Government of Alberta under the AIT. The complaint alleged that the Government of Alberta, through a tax and rebate policy that favours Alberta beers over the beers of other provinces, is failing to honour its free trade obligations under the AIT.
Artisan Ales succeeded in convincing a Panel of trade experts assembled under the AIT to resolve disputes that Alberta’s beer policies were violating the AIT, and the Panel’s July 28, 2017 decision gave the government six months to bring itself into compliance with the trade agreement.
Within days of receiving the Panel’s decision, the Government of Alberta appealed and a new AIT Panel with appellate jurisdiction was assembled to hear the appeal in Montreal on January 25, 2018.
This protectionist tax and rebate policy violated section 121 of the Constitution Act, 1867, the Constitution’s so-called “free trade” clause and long established case law from the Supreme Court of Canada that no province can erect tariff barriers to interprovincial trade. On August 15, 2016, a preliminary, independent review authorized the complaint to proceed to a hearing, finding that “there is a reasonable case of injury or denial of benefit to Artisan Ales.” This is part of our broader work to keep Canadian governments accountable to their internal trade agreements and our Constitution.
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