Can B.C. overturn Alberta's wine ban? A legal expert weighs in
Published Monday, February 19, 2018 9:06PM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 19, 2018 9:54PM EST
British Columbia may have filed a formal complaint against its neighbor as part of the ongoing dispute concerning crude exports and wine sales, but at least one expert in the field is questioning the move.
On Monday, British Columbia filed a formal complaint under the Canadian Free Trade Agreement against Alberta for its decision to block B.C. wine from Alberta shelves.
Shea Coulson, founder of Coulson Litigation, said that because of the 120-day consultation period before the two parties would appear before a tribunal, it may take months before the public will see a decision.
“I suspect we’ll be dealing with a lot of these issues before you would ever get a decision under this Canadian Free Trade Agreement, which makes me question whether there’s another strategy that the B.C. government could use,” said Coulson, who has represented B.C. wineries in the past.
Under the agreement, if a resolution is not found after the consultation process, the parties then move to binding arbitration where each party picks a member for a panel and the two parties have to agree on a third panel member to serve as chairperson.
The costs of the complaint are charged to the losing province. They can also be fined up to $5 million for not fixing the issue within the timeframe set out in the decision.
The Canadian Free Trade Agreement has a section forbidding one province from restricting the goods of another, but there are a number of exceptions to the rule.
One exception deals directly with sales of alcohol in Alberta. The province is allowed “to control the manufacture, import, sale, purchase, possession, storage, transportation, use and consumption of liquor, including through permits and licences.”
“I’m curious to see how B.C. intends to get around that exception to the Free Trade Agreement,” Coulson said. “It’s an interesting move.”
Since the summer of 2017, Coulson says there have only been about a dozen complaints under this bill.
“It’s hard to enforce the rulings and the rulings are capped at $10 million so there’s a limit to what they can accomplish,” he said.
Coulson added Alberta could use the same bill to make a case against British Columbia for its decision to block the Kinder Morgan Pipeline, but that they likely haven’t done it because of the $10 million cap.
With files from The Canadian Press