New Brunswick

Thousands of cigarettes, bottles of beer seized near New Brunswick-Quebec border

A traffic spot-check operation in the Chaleur region, near the Quebec border, saw thousands of illegal cigarettes and bottles of beer seized, two people arrested and tickets issued, the provincial government announced on Wednesday.

Joint forces traffic-stop operation in Chaleur region sees 2 people arrested, tickets issued

New Brunswick loses about $13 million in revenue annually to the illegal tobacco market, according to the government.

A traffic spot-check operation in the Chaleur region, near the Quebec border, saw thousands of illegal cigarettes and bottles of beer seized, two people arrested and tickets issued, the provincial government announced on Wednesday.

The joint operation by the Department of Justice and Quebec police on May 30 and 31 was "focused on the distribution of illegal tobacco products," according to a news release.

"Revenue from the sale of illegal tobacco is often funnelled into organized crime and supports the underground economy in New Brunswick," the release states.

But the seized beer had not been purchased in New Brunswick, contrary to the New Brunswick Liquor Control Act, which was recently upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada in the so-called free-the-beer fight.

A total of 126,042 unstamped cigarettes, the equivalent of more than 5,000 packages, and 1,980 bottles of beer, or about 165 cases, were seized, along with a vehicle.

The provincial tax value of the seized tobacco was about $32,140, while the federal tobacco excise tax value was $26,468.

Two people are facing charges under the Criminal Code related to transporting unstamped cigarettes, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

They have been released from custody on promises to appear in court at a later date.

New Brunswick allows only 12 pints of beer or one bottle of wine or liquor to be brought into the province from another province. (Hilary Bird/CBC)

Enforcement officers also issued tickets under the Tobacco Tax Act and the Liquor Control Act.

The contraband tobacco market is estimated to represent a revenue loss to the province of $13 million annually, according to the government.

The New Brunswick Liquor Control Act sets a personal importation limit of 12 pints of beer (about 18 cans or bottles), or one bottle of wine or spirits — although the province has hinted it will look at easing limits on interprovincial alcohol.

5-year border booze battle

Gerard Comeau of Tracadie recently lost his five-year legal battle for the right to stock up on cheap beer in neighbouring Quebec.

In 2012, Comeau was stopped at the New Brunswick-Quebec border as part of a sting operation by the Campbellton RCMP and fined $292.50 for having 14 cases of beer, two bottles of whisky and a bottle of liqueur in his vehicle.

He fought the charge, citing section 121 of the Constitution Act, which states products from any province "shall … be admitted free into each of the other provinces." His case garnered national attention.

We are always looking at evolving the Liquor Control Act.- Roger Melanson, minister responsible for trade

In April, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously ruled that Canadians do not have a constitutional right to buy and transport alcohol across provincial borders without impediments.

The nine-justice panel said provinces have the right to restrict the importation of goods from another province, as long as the primary aim of the restriction is not to impede trade.

Following the court's decision, New Brunswick Treasury Board President Roger Melanson, who is also the minister responsible for trade policy, suggested changes to liquor restrictions could be coming.

"We are always looking at evolving the Liquor Control Act," he said.