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Supreme Court beer ruling could apply to Alberta B.C. pipeline war, experts say

CALGARY, A.B. — A Supreme Court of Canada ruling on bringing beer from Quebec into New Brunswick has implications for the trade war between Alberta and B.C. over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Experts say the court seems to be addressing the issue in its decision when it notes that while some trade barriers can be allowed in some circumstances, those designed to punish another province or to protect a local industry would not be permissible.

Howard Anglin, executive director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, says the decision protects provincial liquor monopolies by finding that New Brunswick did have the right to fine Gerard Comeau for buying alcohol in Quebec and transporting it over the border.

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But the part of its decision that talks about punitive trade barriers could likely be interpreted to apply to the Alberta’s recent threat to restrict oil and fuel shipments to B.C. and its previous short-lived ban on buying B.C. wine, both designed to pressure B.C. into dropping its opposition to the pipeline.

Shea Coulson, a lawyer who represented five B.C. wineries as interveners in the Supreme Court case, says he thinks the language in the decision suggests the court was thinking about the Trans Mountain dispute.

He says the ruling implies that Alberta’s moves to punish B.C. would likely be found to be unconstitutional.

“I think the judgement goes directly to those sorts of issues,” he said. “And they’re probably unconstitutional. That’s my view.”

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