September 24, 2018

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Manitoba premier asks colleagues to cut restrictions on inter-provincial booze

WINNIPEG - Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is asking his colleagues to eliminate restrictions on interprovincial booze runs.

In advance of next week's premiers meeting in New Brunswick, Pallister has written a letter to other provincial leaders outlining his priorities.

In the letter obtained by The Canadian Press, Pallister says the provinces should remove their limits on interprovincial transportation of alcohol for personal use.

He says the idea has broad public support, and would show progress in the effort to reduce inter-provincial barriers on other items.

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Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister reads during an announcement at the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg, Tuesday, November 7, 2017. Pallister is asking his colleagues to eliminate restrictions on inter-provincial booze runs. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister reads during an announcement at the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg, Tuesday, November 7, 2017. Pallister is asking his colleagues to eliminate restrictions on inter-provincial booze runs. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

WINNIPEG - Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is asking his colleagues to eliminate restrictions on interprovincial booze runs.

In advance of next week's premiers meeting in New Brunswick, Pallister has written a letter to other provincial leaders outlining his priorities.

In the letter obtained by The Canadian Press, Pallister says the provinces should remove their limits on interprovincial transportation of alcohol for personal use.

He says the idea has broad public support, and would show progress in the effort to reduce inter-provincial barriers on other items.

In April, the Supreme Court upheld a New Brunswick law that fined a man $240 for bringing home a trunk load of beer and liquor from Quebec.

The high court said provinces have the power to enact laws that restrict commerce if there is another overriding purpose, which in New Brunswick's case was the desire to control the supply of alcohol within the province.

Pallister's letter says the premiers should adopt a recommendation to reduce alcohol restrictions from an advisory body called the Regulatory Reconciliation and Co-operation table, set up under the Canada Free Trade Agreement.

"In particular, the recommendation regarding a personal use exemption will address long-standing concerns regarding the transportation of alcoholic beverages across domestic borders by significantly increasing personal-use limits," Pallister wrote.

"I suggest we consider going further by fully removing those limits, a move strongly supported by Canadians from every region of the country."

Pallister also points to other items that are subject to interprovincial barriers including trucking regulations such as size and weight restrictions, abbatoirs and business registration requirements.

"The Bank of Canada has estimated that removing existing trade barriers could raise real GDP by the equivalent of approximately $1,500 per family per year. Viewed from that perspective, the costs of inaction are high."

The premiers meeting, which runs July 18 to July 20, will cover a variety of topics including Indigenous issues and inter-city buses.

Alberta's Rachel Notley wants to find some replacement for Greyhound bus routes that are being ended across Western Canada at the end of October.

"I will be raising this issue at the Council of the Federation with a view to working on common solutions with my fellow premiers and the federal government to ensure western Canadians — particularly those living in rural areas, including many Indigenous communities — have access to the transportation services they deserve," Notley said in a written statement Wednesday.

Pallister said he hopes private firms will step forward to fill the void — one firm in northern Ontario has already announced plans to expand westward. He said government subsidies will not be the answer.

"The companies that take the subsidies tend to run out as soon as the subsidy runs out."

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version incorrectly quoted the GDP estimate as $1,500 per year total.

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