Release: CCF takes aim at Alberta’s unconstitutional beer policy

Release: CCF takes aim at Alberta’s unconstitutional beer policy

December 17, 2018—Last Friday, the Alberta Court of Appeal granted the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) leave to intervene in the appeal of the Steam Whistle v. AGLC decision, in which two out-of-province beer companies successfully challenged unconstitutional discrimination by Alberta against their products.

The CCF is intervening to ensure the court correctly applies section 121 of theConstitution Act, 1867—the same provision that was at the heart of the Supreme Court of Canada’s (SCC) Comeau decision earlier in 2018.

This is the first appellate court case in Canada interpreting the SCC’s Comeaudecision, so it is important that it be given a liberal construction, in keeping with the original constitutional vision.


The Steam Whistle v. AGLC appeal will be heard in the Alberta Court of Appeal on April 9, 2019.  This case concerns the Government of Alberta’s beer policies since October 2015 and whether those illegally restrict interprovincial trade in a manner that violates section 121 of the Constitution Act, 1867.

Section 121 reads:

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.

The CCF supported Gerard Comeau in his case, which made section 121 a matter of national public interest during his 2015 trial and subsequent appeal to the SCC in December of 2017.  Mr. Comeau had been fined under New Brunswick law for transporting beer and liquor, in excess of the personal exemption limit, across the border from Quebec. 

Although the SCC upheld New Brunswick’s law in its ruling in the Comeau case, the Court did say that section 121 meant provincial governments cannot impede the free flow of legal goods within Canada for the sole purpose of inhibiting trade or protecting local industry. That is the issue in the Steam Whistle v. AGLC appeal. 

The CCF would like to thank Ron Podolny, of the law firm Rochon Genova, who argued the motion for intervention.

CCF Staff Lawyer Derek From, said:

I am very pleased that the Court recognized the CCF’s record of quality litigation on matters of constitutional importance in granting the CCF leave to intervene in this case. This case is important because it will set the tone for future interpretations of the Comeau decision. Right now, theComeau ruling is an ember that must be fanned into flame to meaningfully protect the constitutional rights of Canadians.

Read the original release here.