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Council of Canadians poll says Nestlé should sell Elora well to local municipality

The Council of Canadians is calling on the Ontario government to take action to return the Middlebrook well to the people of Centre Wellington and to implement a permanent moratorium on new permits for single-use bottled water facilities.

A CBC news article reports, “Nestlé Waters Canada should sell a well they purchased this summer in Elora, Ont., to the local municipality, a poll by the social action group Council of Canadians has found. Of the 1,200 Ontarians contacted by phone earlier this month by the polling and market research company Oraclepoll, 68 per cent answered ‘yes’ when asked, ‘Should the provincial government of Ontario require Nestle to sell the Elora well to the township?'”

The article highlights, “The Elora well is a ‘crisis point at the moment in Ontario as far as bottled water permits are concerned’, Mark Calzavara, the Ontario-Quebec regional organizer for the Council of Canadians, told CBC News. ‘It is the most important, or clearest contest, between a municipality and a bottled water company.'”

In terms of background, “Nestlé placed a conditional offer on the Elora property, known as the Middlebrook well, in 2014 after the property had been for sale for about eight years. In August, Nestlé announced it had purchased the Middlebrook well after an anonymous second buyer put in a no-conditions offer. Nestlé waived all its conditions to buy the property, then later learned the second buyer was the Township of Centre Wellington. Township of Centre Wellington Mayor Kelly Linton told CBC News in August the township was not in a financial position to purchase the well previously, but an unexpected donation from the local Jack R. MacDonald Trust made it possible for the township to make a bid. On Dec. 12, Nestlé Waters Canada hydrologist Andreanne Simard appeared before the township’s council to propose discussing a partnership.”

CBC adds, “In an interview in October, Linton said he did not want the province to expropriate the well from Nestlé. [And he now says he can’t] comment on a partnership until the council had a chance to meet again to discuss it. But Calzavara said Linton is playing it safe and he doesn’t want to antagonize Nestlé. ‘All his problems would be solved if the provincial government expropriated the well and give it to them’, Calzavara said, but plan B might be to purchase the well ‘or come to some kind of agreement’ with Nestlé. That ‘agreement’, however, is not a proposed partnership, Calzavara said. ‘That water isn’t meant to be sold for profit, it’s meant to be used for the people of the municipality, so it’s not really an acceptable solution’, he said. ‘There’s no point in having that discussion with Nestlé’, he added. ‘We just can’t see an acceptable solution coming out of that, that involves Nestlé getting water out of that aquifer.'”

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has stated, “Even with a ‘partnership’, Nestlé still plans to use the well to bottle water in the future. Bottled water is entirely consumptive – meaning almost all the water extracted leaves the watershed and groundwater sources cannot be replenished. Nestlé must sell the well entirely to the community and we need a phase-out on all bottled water takings to protect dwindling groundwater reserves.”

In October, the Ontario government launched a 45-day comment period on bottled water-takings in the province. The Canadian Press reports, “Most of the more than 20,000 people who responded during a 45-day comment period supported the province’s proposed moratorium on issuing water taking permits for new or increased bottled water operations.” Council of Canadians supporters submitted 9,219 of those comments through our online action alert. The Ontario government is now asking for public input on rules for renewing existing bottled water permits.

We are asking our supporters to tell the Ontario government that it needs to:

  • implement a permanent moratorium on new permits for single-use bottled water facilities,

  • phase out current permits for such facilities,

  • prioritize community use over corporate interests for water resources in Ontario, and

  • seek the free, prior and informed consent of affected Indigenous peoples.

To send your comments to the Ontario government please see our action alert here. The deadline to do so is January 31, 2017.

To add your name to our Boycott Nestle Pledge – which has now been signed by 47,251 people – please click here.