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Canadians are ready to bring down interprovincial trade barriers

Montreal, November 28, 2017 – Canadians are unequivocal: 89% think they should be allowed to bring any legally purchased product from one province to another, according to an Ipsos poll commissioned by the MEI, the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF), and the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS).

“Clearly, Canadians understand the advantages of free trade and want to fully enjoy those benefits within their own country, where many obstacles to truly free trade persist,” explains Michel Kelly-Gagnon, President and CEO of the MEI.

The survey was carried out in the context of the “Comeau case” that will be heard December 6 and 7 by the Supreme Court, which will have to decide if Canadians have the right to transport legally purchased goods, including alcohol, from one province to another. If the Court rules that they do have this right, provincial alcohol monopolies will face some competition, and many provincial trade barriers could disappear.

Retiree Gerard Comeau from Tracadie, New Brunswick was stopped five years ago for having brought back home bottles of alcohol purchased in Quebec, in violation of an outdated provincial law. Fined by the police, he fought back and won his case. The provincial government appealed, and the case is now before the Supreme Court.

“When Mr. Comeau contested a $300 fine, he had no idea that he was planting the seeds of a legal battle that could end up radically reforming trade within Canada. Yet that is exactly what could happen,” points out Marco Navarro-Génie, President of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.

Among the other results of the poll:

  • A very large majority of Canadians (78%) are of the opinion that they should be allowed to bring any amount of beer or wine they buy in one province into another province. Only 8% of Canadians disagree.
  • Some 84% of Canadians think they should be allowed to order wine directly from a winery located in another province.
  • Very few think that provincial governments should be allowed to impose restrictions against goods from other provinces to protect their own industries (16%) or to collect more revenues (12%).

Greater trade liberalization would be beneficial for both Canadian consumers and Canadian businesses. A study published in the Canadian Journal of Economics estimates that internal trade liberalization could add $50 billion to $130 billion to Canada’s overall GDP. Using a mid-range estimate of $100 billion, these economic gains represent more than $2,700 per Canadian.

The issues at stake in this court case are of such importance for our economy that three organizations have decided to get involved and make common cause in order to defend free trade for all Canadians, from coast to coast to coast. “We at the MEI are very happy to be able to collaborate with the Canadian Constitution Foundation and the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies in the context of this historic case,” says Mr. Kelly-Gagnon.

Moreover, the MEI requested, and was granted, intervener status before the Supreme Court, which will allow it to present its arguments before the highest court in the land.

“We are hopeful the Court will uphold the trial court’s decision to strike down this obsolete law, which is a relic of the Prohibition era, and is contrary to the spirit of Confederation. This would have extraordinary benefits for the economy of the provinces—in addition to being a wonderful gift for Canadians on the occasion of the country’s 150th birthday,” concludes Howard Anglin, Executive Director at the Canadian Constitution Foundation.

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The Montreal Economic Institute is an independent, non-partisan, not-for-profit research and educational organization. Through its studies and its conferences, the MEI stimulates debate on public policies in Quebec and across Canada by proposing wealth-creating reforms based on market mechanisms.

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Interview requests: Pascale Déry, Vice President, Communications and Development, MEI / Tel.: 514-273-0969 ext. 2233 / Cell.: 514-502-6757 / Email: pdery@iedm.org

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