On the blogby Alfred
April 24 2018

Canada’s Supreme Court has ruled on alcohol transportation between provinces

by Guy Doucet Transport d’alcool entre les provinces : la Cour suprême a tranché

In a long-awaited decision, the Supreme Court has decided that the limits to the transport of alcohol between provinces are legal. According to the judges of the Supreme Court, the limits that were imposed to restrain the quantity of alcohol that can be bought in another province are not an obstacle to commerce. At the heart of all this: the arrest and the fining in 2012 of Gérard Comeau that had brought many cases of beer and spirits from the province of Quebec to New-Brunswick.

Without questioning the system as a whole, the Canadian winemakers and the business players were all hoping for a loosening of the rules for the circulation of alcohol between provinces. Many advantages were predictable, they thought, with the main one being an eventual lowering of the prices and a better access to the Canadian market for wine producers across Canada.

What are the impacts of this decision on the Canadian society?
In fact, a favorable judgement towards free circulation would have forced the provinces and the federal government to accelerate discussions and to alleviate certain barriers while also allowing Canadian wine producers to sell everywhere in Canada. This would have also allowed questioning of the current limitations concerning the legal quantities that can be transported from one province to the other and to adapt this process to the 21stcentury context. It is in 1921 that the government of Québec had taken the decision to create the Alcoholic Beverages Act and to create the Quebec Liquor Commission. Without changing it drastically, it is certainly interesting to reflect on the possible modernization of the model, if only to adapt it to the “numeric world” that is more and more prevalent in this day and age. ​​

Is this decision a sign that the Canadian society is unwilling to modernize the system?
The federal government had already planned to reunite all the provinces in July 2018 for a discussion on the possible and necessary modernization of the laws regulating alcohol in Canada. The earnings that come from the monopolistic management of the alcohol business in Canada are substantial, which makes provinces quite concerned about all potential changes that could affect the basis of these earnings. This reaction from the provinces is understandable, because the margins generated by the monopolistic management are reinvested directly into the public services. It will be very interesting to follow the evolution of the discussions and changes that will originate from this, because Canadian citizens have clearly shown that they wish to see the situation evolve in Canada.

What are the effects of this decision for Alfred?
​In contrary to many companies currently in business in Canada that were expecting a favorable decision, we have decided here, at Alfred, to develop the business according to the currently active laws. Our values have always guided us and led us to work with the authorities to take our rightful place, legally, into the Quebec ecosystem with the necessary permissions from the SAQ. For a few months now, we have established links with very important Canadian companies that are operating legally, and these partnerships will allow us to operate our business everywhere in Canada.

What are the main opportunities to take away from this decision?
​The prime minister has clearly expressed that he has taken act of the decision of the Supreme Court and that his government will respect it. He has also said that it is now time for a questioning of the current model and, as is usually done in our respective businesses, adapt it to align it with the current reality whilst maintaining the positive aspects.

The next months are going to be quite interesting, because our society is ripe for a questioning of the system, a questioning that is very healthy and a huge part of what defines a vibrant and lively society.

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