The Fathers of Confederation would have been against protectionist policies to restrict the movement of alcohol between provinces because it would have violated the spirit of the British North America Act, a constitutional historian testified at provincial court in Campbellton, N.B., on Wednesday.
Andrew Smith of the University of Liverpool was testifying for the defence in the trial of Gerard Comeau, a Tracadie man who is charged with bringing too much alcohol into New Brunswick from Quebec.
Smith said that a section of New Brunswick's Liquor Control Act violates the spirit of the BNA Act, enacted in 1867 to divide responsibilities between the provincial and federal powers in Canada.
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Comeau's defence on the charge of violating New Brunswick's Liquor Control Act is the law that limits how much alcohol can be imported to the province by an individual is unconstitutional.
Comeau was transporting 14 cases of beer, two bottles of whisky and a bottle of liqueur across the Quebec-New Brunswick border. RCMP seized Comeau's alcohol and fined him $292.50.
Under the liquor law, 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.
Smith testified the fathers of Confederation looked at British policies to help make their own and also embraced free trade.
The defence asked Smith what Sir John A. Macdonald and the Fathers of Confederation would have thought of Comeau's situation.
"They would have said this is completely against why we created Confederation in the first place," Smith said.
'Crime is a wide term'
RCMP Const. Guy Savoie, who arrested Comeau three years ago with several cases of beer, was the first witness of the day.
Asked whether he thought Comeau's actions constituted a crime, Savoie replied: "Crime is a wide term."
Comeau was among 17 people stopped and charged during an RCMP enforcement operation on Oct. 6, 2012, for bringing too much alcohol into the province ,
The sting operation was proposed by RCMP in Campbellton, N.B. and carried out with assistance from their counterparts in Quebec.
A 'devastating' impact on NB Liquor
Relaxing Canada's liquor laws would have a "devastating" impact on NB Liquor, a senior official with the Crown corporation told the court on Monday.
Rick Smith, a senior vice-president at NB Liquor, was asked in court on Tuesday what would happen to the corporation if there were no restrictions on bringing alcohol across provincial borders.
Smith said, worst-case scenario, it would be "devastating to the business."
When pressed further, he told the court that such a move could potentially put the Crown corporation out of business.
He said that even though NB Liquor would continue to be the only legal seller of alcohol in the province, "it wouldn't take long for entrepreneurs to set up their own distribution channels."