Wineries court case wraps

Five small Okanagan wineries had their day in court today during a rare two-day hearing at the Supreme Court of Canada.

The wineries are intervening in a case on behalf 100 B.C. wineries trying to break down legal barriers to inter-provincial shipping of Canadian wine, arguing it has negatively impacted consumer choice, as well as threatening the local wine industry itself.

"The Court was engaged in a deep debate about whether to expand the constitutional guarantee for a national common market in Canada, and if so, to what extent," said Shea Coulson, the wineries lawyer.

"The Court was particularly concerned with judges entering too far into the policy jurisdiction of the democratically-elected provincial governments. At the same time, they recognized that the current situation regarding national distribution of liquor is not ideal."

The case, R. v. Comeau, is a constitutional challenge stemming from when Gerard Comeau was stopped and fined in 2012 for carrying alcohol from Quebec across the New Brunswick border.

The challenge is trying to convince the court to uphold the "letter and spirit" of the 1867 Constitution, which provides some level of constitutional guarantee of free trade.

The Okanagan wineries are just one of many interveners in the case. Most on the non-government groups — and 89 per cent of Canadians — side with Comeau.

The ruling would make it easier for  individuals as well as industry to access a national market, potentially contributing an additional $50 to $130 billion to the gross domestic product, said Coulson.

The outcome of the case will be decided in 2018.

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