There are some things so stupid only a Canadian politician could rationalize them:
His name is Gerard Comeau, though his lawyer calls him “Joe Canadian.” A retired steelworker with a taste for beer and a frugal streak, he’s the unlikely face of a revolt.
And yet a shopping trip by Comeau to pick up 15 cases of beer in 2012 -- some 354 bottles and cans -- triggered a legal fight that shook the ground on which rest many of Canada’s arcane inter-provincial trade rules.
Comeau’s penalty for illegally bringing alcohol across a provincial border was tossed out last month when a judge ruled such bans were unconstitutional. While Comeau’s lawyer says the case is a victory for small brewers and could hurt giants like Anheuser-Busch InBev SA and Molson Coors Brewing Co., the case goes far beyond beer and is spurring a renewed push to overhaul Canada’s complex web of internal trade barriers that add another drag to an economy already grappling with an oil-price shock.
These laws have been on the books for nearly a century, yet only recently did a Canadian judge rule them unconstitutional. Keep in mind the constitution these laws are flagrantly violating is the original 1867 version not the Trudeaupia 2.0 version dropped on us back in 1982. The judge also defended his decision by citing original intent. Much to my shock - and no doubt yours - there are justices on the Canadian bench who from time to time believe in originalism. These are people who actually give a flying damn what the Fathers of Confederation were trying to accomplish.
Give me a moment. I'm almost giddy.
For our American readers let me clarify: Most Canadian judges believe in a living constitutions. Actually I'm underselling it. For them the Canadian constitution isn't just living, it jumps and jives its way through life not giving a tinker's damn about silly old fashioned things like its actual text. In fact if you'll bear with me for a moment our constitutional jurisprudence imagines our founding document as a tattooed and pierced activist marching around Parliament Hill waving a placard. It's often remarked by American conservatives that to the Left the US Constitution is whatever the Supreme Court says it is. That's a bitter joke in America. With Section One of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that ain't a joke, it's business as usual.
As Martha Stewart was fond of saying, this decision is a Good Thing. The power of the state has been curtailed and the freedom of the individual expanded. Yet I'm left with a certain sense of being overwhelmed. This is but one example of an unconstitutional trade barrier. There dozens upon dozens of varying degrees of absurdity. As with supply management these barriers are blatant money grabs, an arcane way of gouging Canadian consumers and reducing competition. There is not even a fig of justification. These laws survive because the ordinary Canadian shrugs his shoulders and repeats our national mantra: "What ya gonna do about it?"
We sometimes mock the Americans for their overheated political rhetoric. If they are too aggressive in their political life we are by comparison far, far too timid.