Poll Shows People Side With N.B. Man Fined For Bringing Booze Back From Quebec

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HALIFAX – Most Canadians believe they should be allowed to bring any legally purchased product from one province to another, according to a new Ipsos poll.

The poll was commissioned in context of the public debate around the case of Gerard Comeau, who was stopped by police five years ago for bringing back alcohol he had purchased in Quebec. He was fined by the police, but he fought that decision and won. The provincial government appealed, and the case is will now go before the Supreme Court December 6 -7.

Michel Kelly-Gagnon is president and CEO of the Montreal Economic Institute (MEI), one of the organizations that commissioned the poll. He said the people they surveyed were firmly on Comeau’s side, with 89 per cent saying they shouldn’t be penalized for anything they buy and bring home with them.

“Clearly, Canadians understand the advantages of free trade and want to fully enjoy those benefits within their own country, where many obstacles to truly free trade persist,” said Kelly-Gagnon in a release about the poll’s findings.

If the Supreme Court sides with Comeau, provincial alcohol monopolies will face some competition from outside their provincial boundaries and many provincial trade barriers could disappear, said Marco Navarro-Génie, president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, one of the other sponsors of the poll.

“When [Comeau] contested a $300 fine, he had no idea that he was planting the seeds of a legal battle that could end up radically reforming trade within Canada,” he said. “Yet that is exactly what could happen.”

Among the other results of the poll:

  • 78 per cent believe they should be allowed to bring any amount of beer or wine they buy in one province into another
  • 84 per cent of Canadians think they should be allowed to order wine directly from a winery located in another province.
  • Very few think that provincial governments should be allowed to impose restrictions against goods from other provinces to protect their own industries (16 per cent) or to collect more revenues (12 per cent).

The Canadian Constitution Foundation was the other sponsor of the poll. All three organizations believe that trade liberalization would be good for the Canadian consumers and businesses. They cite a study published in the Canadian Journal of Economics which estimates that internal trade liberalization could add $5-billion to $130-billion to Canada’s overall GDP.

“We are hopeful the Court will uphold the trial court’s decision to strike down this obsolete law, which is a relic of the Prohibition era and is contrary to the spirit of Confederation,” said Howard Anglin, executive director at the Canadian Constitution Foundation. “This would have extraordinary benefits for the economy of the provinces.”