NEWS
08/27/2015 13:32 EDT | Updated 08/27/2016 01:12 EDT

Interprovincial liquor limits don't violate free trade, says Crown witness

Putting limits on the amount of Quebec-purchased liquor a person can bring into New Brunswick does not violate the section of the British North America (BNA) Act that guarantees free trade across provinces, an expert witness testifies.

Fredericton-based political scientist Tom Bateman, a Crown witness, said Thursday in the Campbellton, N.B., court that Sec. 121 of the Constitution is dormant.

Bateman testified at the trial prompted by Gerard Comeau's challenge of a $292.50 fine that he received for transporting 14 cases of beer, two bottles of whisky and a bottle of liqueur across the Quebec-New Brunswick border.

Under the New Brunswick Liquor Control Act, a person may only bring one bottle of wine or spirits, or 12 pints of beer — about 18 cans or bottles — into New Brunswick from another province.

But Bateman said provinces wouldn't conceivably put in place customs at their borders, so Sec. 121 isn't even used anymore.

Defence cites Constitution

Defence lawyer Karen Selick disputed Bateman's testimony.

"The thing that actually does meet that description is Sec. 134b of the Liquor Control Act," she said.

Under the section, New Brunswickers are not supposed to "have or keep liquor not purchased from the [New Brunswick Liquor] Corporation."

Selick pointed to Wednesday's testimony of Const. Guy Savoie, who arrested Comeau. Savoie said that other than the two-day sting to bust Comeau, nobody has been arrested for transporting too much booze back from Quebec.

"If any law has fallen into disuse, surely it is that and not the Constitution," said Selick.

Comeau's defence team argues placing limits how much alcohol can be imported to the province by an individual is unconstitutional.

The four-day trial is scheduled to wrap up Friday, when Patrick Oland, the chief financial officer of Moosehead Brewery based in New Brunswick, will testify.