New Brunswick court ruling on cross-border beer imports boosts sales in Quebec

By Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press

FREDERICTON – There was a run on beer in southeastern Quebec this weekend, as New Brunswickers took advantage of a court ruling throwing out limits on cross-border alcohol imports.

Many New Brunswick customers bought five or six cases of beer each to take home, store employees said.

“My normal customers were buying more than they normally buy,” said Margaret Boyd at Mom Duty Free in Listuguj, Que., not far from Campbellton, N.B.

“They said ‘the courts made the decision and now we’re buying some while we can’,” Boyd said.

Beer near the border in Quebec is about half the price charged in New Brunswick.

On Friday, a judge tossed out all charges against Gerard Comeau, who was charged with illegally importing 14 cases of beer and three bottles of liquor from a Quebec border town in 2012.

Comeau’s lawyer described the ruling as “groundbreaking,” and said it will have a national impact far beyond saving Maritimers on the cost of their beer.

Arnold Schwisberg said the ruling could have the power to shift a host of laws across the country governing everything from selling chickens to how engineers and other professionals work across provincial lines.

A government spokeswoman said the Department of Public Safety, which enforces the province’s Liquor Control Act, is reviewing the court decision.

In Quebec, local brewers sell directly to convenience stores without a government mark-up.

During the trial last year, Richard Smith, senior vice-president of the New Brunswick Liquor Corp., said in New Brunswick where the sale of liquor must be through NB Liquor outlets, the corporation adds a mark-up of as much as 89.8 per cent to the price it pays the breweries.

Smith said the Crown corporation makes about $165 million in profits each year for the provincial government.

On Monday, a spokesman for NB Liquor declined comment on the court decision.

“As the matter is still within the appeal period, it would be inappropriate … to comment any further at this time,” Mark Barbour wrote in an email.

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