Gallant calls for freer flow of beer across provincial borders

Premier Brian Gallant has agreed to support a freer flow of beer across provincial borders, saying the matter will be discussed at next week's premiers' meeting in Saint Andrews.

Manitoba premier writes letter saying restrictions should be eliminated

Premier Brian Gallant says a freer flow of cross-border beer sales will be on the table for discussion when Canadian premiers meet in New Brunswick next week. (CBC News)

Premier Brian Gallant has agreed to support a freer flow of beer across provincial borders, saying the matter will be discussed at next week's premiers' meeting in Saint Andrews.

"We, as premiers, all agreed that we have to have a freer flow of beer and alcohol in the country and that's exactly why we put a working group of trade ministers to discuss this important subject, one that is quite complex," Gallant said. 

"And they're coming back to us over the next few days with some recommendations and suggestions."

The statement was made following the release of a letter by Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister calling for the elimination of  restrictions on cross-border booze runs.

And it comes just three months after the province won a Supreme Court fight to be able to fine individual New Brunswickers for bringing too much beer or alcohol home from other provinces.

The premier of New Brunswick is calling for free-er trade in alcohol among the Canadian provinces. 0:45

Pallister's letter

In the letter obtained by The Canadian Press, Pallister says the provinces should remove their limits on interprovincial transportation of alcohol for personal use.

"In particular, the recommendation regarding a personal use exemption will address long-standing concerns regarding the transportation of alcoholic beverages across domestic borders by significantly increasing personal-use limits," Pallister wrote.

Premier Brian Pallister of Manitoba wrote a letter calling for the elimination of restrictions to interprovincial transportation of alcohol for personal use. (CBC)

"I suggest we consider going further by fully removing those limits, a move strongly supported by Canadians from every region of the country."

Surprise move

The New Brunswick premier's words come as a surprise after the Gallant government fought all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to keep cross-border beer barriers in place.

In April, the Supreme Court ruled New Brunswick had the right to fine a Tracadie man for bringing home a trunkload of beer and liquor from Quebec, where alcohol is cheaper.

Gerard Comeau was the Tracadie man at the centre of 'free the beer[' court case. (Serge Bouchard/Radio-Canada)

Gerald Comeau was stopped by RCMP at the New Brunswick-Quebec border in 2012 and fined $292.50  for having 14 cases of beer, two bottles of whisky and one bottle of liqueur in his vehicle. The alcohol was confiscated.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that provinces and territories have the right to restrict cross-border imports as long as the restriction is not geared to impede trade.

In this case, the court found that the primary purpose of New Brunswick's law was "to prohibit holding excessive quantities of liquor from supplies not managed by the province."

The premiers' meeting runs Wednesday through Friday. It's expected to cover a variety of topics, including Indigenous issues and intercity buses.

With files from Karina Roman and the Canadian Press