Telegraph-Journal

Court ruling protects liquor monopolies

We’re told that the path to hell is paved with good intentions. On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada sped down this road in upholding archaic restrictions on inter-provincial trade.

Section 134(b) of New Brunswick’s Liquor Control Act makes it illegal for residents to possess large amounts of alcohol not purchased from the New Brunswick Liquor Corporation. Gerard Comeau was in violation of this law when an RCMP stakeout caught him driving back from Quebec with a trunk full of beer, resulting in a $240 fine.

Comeau could have crossed nearly any Canadian border and faced a similar penalty due to a slew of post-prohibition regulations found in every province and territory.

He claimed the Act was in violation of Section 121 of the BNA Act, 1867, which guarantees the freedom to trade across the dominion. The Fathers of Confederation intended to create a nation unhampered by tariffs, his legal team argued.

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Loonie Politics

Who takes responsibility for your actions?

Are voters free-acting agents, responsible for their own choices?  Or are they mere sheep, blindly following whatever advertising gimmick has been put before them?

To me, this is the most fascinating and largely ignored question that has arisen from the Russian hacker and Facebook algorithm meltdown over the last year.  If it weren’t for all the fake news, Donald Trump wouldn’t be president they say.  If fewer memes circulated on Facebook, there’d be no Brexit.

The idea that things would have turned out differently is a tantalizing theory as those in the centre and on the left still try to grasp exactly why the two votes ended in their eventual outcomes.  Unable to fathom any other explanation, people must have voted the way they did because of conniving hackers hell-bent on disrupting democracy.  Had voters had a clear mind and enough restraint, everyone would be singing kumbaya right now instead of snickering at the thought of Stormy Daniels spanking the president with a TRUMP Magazine.

There’s no denying that Russian meddling did occur, and that the vast reach of Facebook’s tentacles did affect voters.  The question is rather how much influence it really had and is it any different from the other types of meddling – also called marketing in any other contexts – that takes place on a daily basis.  When examining the facts, it all seems overblown.

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Loonie Politics

Philippe Couillard has fixed Quebec. So why is he headed for defeat?

Quebec premier Philippe Couillard was elected to a majority government in 2014 on a platform that promised to put Quebec’s fiscal house in order.  By all measures, his government has achieved it.  He initially appointed three reputable economists to serve in his cabinet.  Finance Minister Carlos Leitao, formerly of the Laurentian Bank, has delivered budget surpluses for four straight years – including in a budget tabled last Tuesday.  Taxes are lower, though only marginally; unemployment has hit record low levels to the point that there’s a labour shortage; and business is booming.  Optimism amongst small business owners is higher in Quebec than anywhere else in Canada.  Quebec, once the economic basket case of mainland Canada, is now a driver of prosperity.

For most governments, this would be a golden ticket to reelection.  Few governments are toppled when unemployment is low and consumer confidence is high.  A governing party under these conditions should make a promise to keep it going, throw some tax cuts in their platform, and sit back to watch the vote tally in their favour.

And yet, the Quebec Liberals have managed to fall far back in all recent polls at the expense of the unexperienced Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ), a party peddling populist nationalism.  Ten Liberal MNAs have announced they won’t run in the October 1 election, knowing quite well what outcome likely lays ahead for them.

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Prince Arthur Herald | Huffington Post

Donald Trump is Canada’s useful idiot on supply management

There are few controversial policy issues that unite Canada’s editorial boards, but when it comes to supply management, everyone is on the same page.

The National Post, Globe and Mail, Sun newspapers, and the Toronto Star have all come out in favour of abolishing the dairy and poultry cartels. The central impetus for all is the unfair burden it poses on consumers. The system implemented under Pierre Trudeau forces Canadians to pay twice as much for four litres of milk as Americans do. For Canadian families, the rigged price policy translates to $585 more doled out annually for groceries than under a fair market environment.

On this they agree, but opinions differ on the role the United States should have on getting this domestic policy abolished. The National Post’s Andrew Coyne, as one recent example, adopted the Montreal Economic Institute’s view that Donald Trump’s recent attacks on Canada are something we can milk for our own benefit. Ending supply management could be chipped in as an exchange for, say, ending the nonsensical tariff on softwood lumber. It’s a win-win, right? Supply management should be abolished regardless of what the Americans think, but there’s an opportunity to gain even more benefits now that Trump has decided to plop himself into the debate.

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Prince Arthur Herald | Huffington Post

All homemade booze should be legal

plan B was if Canadians continued buying cannabis from the black market. Trudeau naturally migrated towards the familiar example of booze: “currently, there is no black market for alcohol.”

While it’s true that most people won’t get solicited in the street by bootleggers in stained trench coats, an underground market does exist. There are plenty of ways to buy liquor outside the purview of our provincial monopolies if you know where to look. As just one example, there’s an active Facebook page for ordering illegal alcohol outside of the SAQ’s hours of operation at a hefty markup; it has over 61,000 members. The Quebec government estimates that it loses $90 million per year in revenue from people buying their liquor outside of its control, either illegally or otherwise.

But the next thought that came out of Trudeau’s mouth is more interesting: “you can make [alcohol] at home if you want”, Trudeau said, but added that most choose to buy it from established sources.

Hipsters can and do indeed brew beer and make wine from the comfort of their own homes, but provincial legislation across Canada prohibits the unlicensed distillation of alcohol, as does the federal Excise Act. You can ferment whatever the hell you want, as long as you don’t try to heat the inebriating substance and turn the vapours into something more potent.

Moonshining typically draws up images of blind hillbillies concocting bathtub hooch in the woods, yet the anachronism isn’t appropriate for the twenty-first century. Contemporary technology removes much of the worry over homemade liquor – you can easily test for the presence of methanol and other non-potable compounds and operate an alembic safely. And far from a rickety concoction of home-welded tanks and pipes, modern distilling equipment is carefully crafted scientific equipment. Is it foolproof? Nothing is, but stills are no more dangerous – and likely safer – than pressure cookers and deep fryers, already omnipresent in the nation’s kitchens.

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Eater

EATER: The SAQ is Getting In Between You And The Alcohol You Want

I love Lagavulin 16. My father-in-law introduced me to the scotch several years ago, cementing my fascination with fine spirits. The Islay icon is my go-to dram if I’m not experimenting with other ryes, bourbons, and scotch whiskeys.

But the price tag stings. I have to pay $119 for a bottle in Quebec, far more than many other North American locales. Privately-owned Liquor Depot stores in Alberta and British Columbia sell the same product for $100. Across the border in Maine, I can get one at the grocery store for $US80 (around $CA105).

So why is a bottle of Lagavulin 20 percent more expensive in Quebec? It’s the same reason that many wines and most spirits are more expensive in La Belle Province than other jurisdictions. The price reflects a problem in how Quebec’s government-run alcohol corporation, the SAQ, is managed.

The SAQ doesn’t operate like a normal business — it functions like a bureaucracy. Despite being one of the world’s top liquor buyers, it doesn’t bargain for bulk deals. Instead, it puts out a request for proposals with a price floor. For example, it may tell producers something like “we are taking bids for a chardonnay that retails between $14.95 and 16.49.” It’s then up to wine agents to change their price accordingly. The selected wine might typically sell for $12 in a competitive market, and the producer would have sold it to the SAQ for less — but the government never asked. So Quebecers get stuck with the bill. Quebec isn’t alone: Canadian public monopolies pay anywhere from three to 77 percent more than other international importers for wine.

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Postmedia

Montreal Gazette: Canadian wines get short shrift in Quebec

Along with 13,000 other thirsty enthusiasts, I attended La Grande Dégustation de Montréal earlier this month. The event featured booths from 160 wine and whisky producers from 19 different countries, offering visitors a chance to imbibe 1,200 unique products.

The yearly event is organized by the AQAVBS, Quebec’s association for wine, beer and spirits dealers and importers, and its main partner is the Société des alcools du Québec, the only authorized seller of most wines and all spirits in the province.

This year, the event’s spotlight was on Argentinian and Chilean wines, showcasing a booming world wine-producing region. However, another booming wine region was all but ignored: Canada.

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