In what could prove to be a groundbreaking decision of immense importance to the Canadian wine industry, a New Brunswick judge has found today that provincial laws that restrict the interprovincial transport of liquor are unconstitutional. The judge found that s.121 of the Constitution which guarantees a free trade zone within Canada does not allow provinces to create laws that prevent Canadians from transporting liquor from another province. It is not currently binding on other provinces because it is the decision of a NB trial court. However, if it is appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, which seems all but certain, then it may eventually become binding across the country. Even now, it will likely be influential because there is now a precedent for other Canadian jurisdictions, if not a binding one. I note that all Canadian provinces have some form of laws, regulations or policies that inhibit the interprovincial trade in alcohol (Manitoba is the least restrictive). All of these restrictions are now vulnerable to a similar challenge.
This case may become Canada\’s Granholm (a case which opened up the U.S. market to direct to consumer wine shipping). This may be the start of a new era when Canadians from one part of the country will be able to legally purchase wine, or other alcohol, from another part of the country just as most people in the world are able to do. This is a very significant development for the Canadian wine industry because it may transform their markets from customers in a single province to all of the residents of the entire country.
Here is a link to the full decision: NB Liquor case.