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Guelph City Council to debate Nestle water-taking permit on September 26

Guelph City Council. Mayor Cam Guthrie in the middle, Councillor James Gordon top row, second from the left.

Guelph City Council will soon debate a motion to oppose a renewal of Nestle’s provincial permit to draw water for its bottled water operations in Aberfoyle.

Nestle is applying to the provincial government for a 10-year renewal of its permit to extract 3.6 million litres of water a day from the Grand River watershed. The Aberfoyle permit expired on July 31, but Nestle has continued to pump water under the terms and conditions of the old permit as the ministry reviews its application.

The Council of Canadians supports the motion by Ward 2 Councillor James Gordon for the City to oppose Nestle’s application. We urged our Guelph-area members with this action alert to contact City Council to express their support for the motion prior to a September 12 City Council planning meeting.

More than 560 letters were sent to City Council via our website.

The Guelph Mercury reports Councillor Gordon saying, “Councillors and the mayor have each received more than 500 emails supporting the motion, and it’s become a national issue.”

That news article adds, “Gordon’s motion, which was tabled at council’s September 12 planning meeting, calls on the city to send the province a letter expressing council’s ‘concern that the permit to take water is not in the best interest of the City of Guelph and the watershed shared by the City of Guelph.'” It also highlights, “Although [Mayor Cam] Guthrie [says] that public delegations won’t be allowed to speak at the September 26 council meeting where Gordon’s motion will be debated for the first time, Gordon said that he’s expecting a ‘very large rally’ in support of his motion outside city hall before that meeting.”

“From what he’s hearing, Gordon said, a rally in support of his motion is planned for 5 p.m. on September 26 outside city hall, and city staff anticipate a ‘very large turnout of Guelphites expecting council to address their concerns. I do not intend to let these people down by abandoning or delaying official city commentary on this important issue.'”

Mayor Guthrie says he will not be voting in favour of sending Councillor Gordon’s motion to the October 3 meeting of the Council’s committee of the whole for further debate. Councillor Gordon’s motion needs majority support from the 13-member Council on September 26 in order to proceed to the October 3 committee of the whole meeting. If the committee of the whole approves the motion on October 3, then it would go to the Council meeting on October 24 for final approval.

The Council of Canadians will continue to support Councillor Gordon’s motion.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow will be highlighting our opposition to Nestle at this public forum in Guelph on September 22, just days before the September 26 City Council debate.

The Council of Canadians has previously raised concerns about Nestle’s water-taking business in Aberfoyle. In 2008, the Council of Canadians Guelph chapter and Wellington Water Watchers campaigned against Nestle and succeeded in at least reducing Nestle’s requested permit (from 5 years to 2 years) and requiring the company to do extensive monitoring on the impact of their water takings. In 2013, the two groups, with legal representation from Ecojustice, successfully fought against an Ontario Ministry of Environment decision to remove conditions that made it mandatory for Nestle to reduce its water takings in Hillsburgh during droughts.