The Canadian Constitution Foundation reacts to the news that Premiers are considering loosening rules over some inter-provincial online sale of wine:
While almost any development would be an improvement on the current, prohibition-era restrictions on the movement of alcohol within Canada, the Canadian Constitution Foundation remains concerned that blatantly unconstitutional barriers will remain in place that will continue to deny consumers choice and producers an open, national market.
Section 121 of the Constitution Act, 1867, guarantees the free movement of goods within Canada. This 149-year old right was recently upheld in New Brunswick, where a court threw out a fine against Gerard Comeau, who had legally bought beer and spirits in Quebec and driven them home across the New Brunswick border. The court recognized that Canada’s founders had enshrined in s.121 of the Constitution the principle that Canada was to be a single economic unit for purposes of trade, and that the provinces could not prevent the free movement of goods between themselves. The Canadian Constitution Foundation was proud to support M. Comeau’s case and will continue to defend his constitutional rights, and the constitutional rights of all Canadians, as that case now goes to appeal.
The Premiers of British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec have announced a proposal to create an e-commerce site to allow the people of their respective provinces purchase wine online through the provincial monopoly boards of the other provinces. Unfortunately, this system would further entrench the unconstitutional restrictions against individual consumers purchasing or shipping wine (to say nothing of beer and spirits, which appear to be excluded from the scheme) directly from producers and distributors in other provinces. It will also continue to shut out small wineries who can’t afford the substantial cost and red-tape of distributing through provincial monopolies. As a result, consumers in other provinces will continue to be denied access to some of the best wines made in other provinces, even though those wineries and breweries would happily ship to them directly.
State-run e-commerce hubs are not necessary for Canadian consumers to buy food, books, or clothes from another provinces. Why then do the provinces persist with their anachronistic and unconstitutional restrictions on the sale of beer, wine, and spirits? Until the Premiers end their stubborn and serial violations of Section 121 of the Constitution, the Canadian Constitution Foundation will continue to fight to uphold the vision of our country’s founders and to defend the rights of Canadian consumers.