On Monday, May 30, in my capacity as the Official Opposition Critic for interprovincial trade, I held a news conference with Opposition Deputy Leader Dennis Lebel to announce a new Free the Beer campaign. Since that time I have heard overwhelming support from citizens all across Canada strongly in support of this campaign.
Most people regardless of political persuasion support the concept of Free the Beer, not unlike what I discovered with my Free my Grapes private members bill that was unanimously supported in the House of Commons when it passed third reading.
So why is Free the Beer important and more so for our Canadian economy?
First some background on this subject. Since my private member`s bill to Free The Grapes that removed a prohibition-era amendment on the inter-provincial movement of wine was passed into law, only Manitoba, British Columbia and Nova Scotia have embraced the spirit that free trade in Canadian wine should not be a crime. After my bill was passed the former Conservative government also amended the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act to add craft beers and artisan spirits to the list. However, recently the Province of New Brunswick charged a citizen, Gerard Comeau, for personally importing beer and some spirits across a provincial border.
It is clear that many provinces remain stuck in the dark ages of protectionism, using regulatory red tape to create trade barriers. Fortunately for Mr. Comeau, our Canadian Constitution clearly states in Section 121 that “All Articles of the Growth, Produce, or Manufacture of any one of the Provinces shall, from and after the Union, be admitted free into each of the other Provinces.” A New Brunswick judge agreed with section 121 of our Constitution and Mr. Comeau was found not guilty.
Regrettably, last week the Province of New Brunswick announced they will be appealing this ruling and that is the basis for my announcement this week.
Simply put, Free the Beer means asking that the Liberal government elevate the Comeau case to the Supreme Court for constitutional clarification. This not only has the potential to free the beer for Canadians but more importantly it could open up our internal economy for all Canadian producers of other products. This obviously includes farmers and other agricultural producers. People want to ‘buy Canadian’ and it should not be easier for a winery in B.C. to directly sell into Asia than Ontario, as is the case today.
It is difficult to assess the impact internal trade barriers have on our economy but one study has the value at $14 billion annually. I believe that anything we can do to help create jobs and grow our economy without adding more debt should be a priority of any government. I welcome your comments and question on this topic. Do you support Free the Beer and removing inter-provincial trade barriers?
On a different note, my staff and I have been reviewing suggestions from some of the town halls we have held since the last election and we are pleased to announce that we will start offering a mobile constituency service in Merritt, at the municipal hall on June 7, from 9 a.m. to noon and after that on the first Tuesday of each month thereafter. As we will be adding additional mobile office service throughout the riding, or for more information please go to my website: www.danalbas.com/mobileoffice.