Though it sounds like the name of a Stompin’ Tom Connors song, Ryan Manucha’s Booze, Cigarettes and Constitutional Dust-Ups is, in fact, a 312-page examination of interprovincial trade barriers in Canada. At a Toronto gala on Thursday evening, the book was named this year’s winner of the $60,000 Donner Prize, an annual award that recognizes the best in Canadian public policy writing and research.
The first-time author is a Harvard Law graduate and scholar of interprovincial trade law who has written for the country’s leading think tanks and published pieces in The Globe and Mail. Booze, Cigarettes and Constitutional Dust-Ups is published by McGill-Queen’s University Press.
The Donner Prize jury noted the “lively” book’s clear explanations and relevant anecdotes and praised its “excellent review of the development of internal trade policy, as well as guidance on future policy developments in the years to come.”
One of the books anecdotes is the story of New Brunswick’s Gérard Comeau, a retired steelworker and unlikely cause célèbre who drove over the Restigouche River into Quebec to buy cheaper beer and liquor in the fall of 2012. In a low-stakes sting operation, RCMP officers in New Brunswick caught Mr. Comeau with 354 bottles and cans of beer and three bottles of liquor, and fined him $292 under a provincial law that limits the amount of booze purchased outside the provincial liquor authority.
In a case that drew national attention, Mr. Comeau challenged that law in provincial court and won, only to lose later when the Supreme Court endorsed the detainment and penalties inflicted upon the lager enthusiast. Mr. Manucha uses Mr. Comeau’s story as his book’s starting point.
“Far from a dull topic,” he writes, “interprovincial trade shines a spotlight revealing the history, personalities and direction of this country.”
Mr. Manucha’s book was selected by the six-member jury chaired by former United Nations deputy secretary-general Louise Fréchette.
The other nominated titles, whose authors will each receive $7,500, are: Joseph Heath’s Cooperation and Social Justice, John Lorinc’s Dream States, Stephen Poloz’s The Next Age of Uncertainty and Kent Roach’s Canadian Policing.
The Donner Prize, created by the Donner Canadian Foundation, was first awarded in 1998. Last year’s winner was Innovation in Real Places, by Dan Breznitz.