5 B.C. wineries head to court over shipping liquor between provinces

Case could decide the future of internal free trade within Canada

Credit: Town Hall Brands

Shea Coulson, of Coulson Litigation, which is representing the Coalition of Small BC Wineries

Case could decide the future of internal free trade within Canada

On Tuesday (October 10), the Supreme Court of Canada gave permission to five small B.C wineries to intervene in a case involving shipping liquor across provincial borders. The Province of New Brunswick is appealing a provincial court ruling that limiting the amount of alcohol someone can bring into the province is unconstitutional. The New Brunswick provincial court had acquitted resident Gerard Comeau of exceeding provincial importation limits of 12 pints of beer or one bottle of alcohol or wine that can be brought into the province. Comeau was charged in 2012 after bringing in 14 cases of beer and three bottles of liquor from Quebec.

R. v Comeau is the first court case where Canadian wineries have had an opportunity to address the legal barriers to interprovincial shipping of Canadian wine. These provincially created barriers impede the businesses and financial viability of small wineries in British Columbia by prohibiting wineries from shipping to consumers in other provinces, according to a release from Coulson Litigation, which is representing the wineries.

Curtis Krouzel (50th Parallel Estate Winery), Ian MacDonald (Liquidity Wines Ltd.), Jim D’Andrea (Noble Ridge Vineyards), Christine Coletta (Okanagan Crush Pad) and John Skinner (Painted Rock Estate Winery Ltd.) each run wineries that produce less than 50,000 cases of wine (each containing a dozen 750-millilitre bottles) annually, and each makes wine exclusively using 100 per cent Canadian-grown grapes. These five producers head the Coalition of Small BC Wineries, a group of more than 100 wineries that seeks to change the law governing interprovincial shipping of wine and liquor across Canada. All members of the coalition have limited national distribution due to interprovincial trade barriers. These barriers pose an existential threat to small wineries, which need national distribution to build a sufficient revenue base for long-term survival.

The Supreme Court of Canada will hear from the two parties to the appeal (the New Brunswick Crown and Gerard Comeau), as well as a couple of dozen interveners, on December 6 and 7, 2017.

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