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Nestle bottled water taking permit process not likely to begin until after the June 7 Ontario election

The Council of Canadians and Wellington Water Watchers take action at the Nestle facility in Aberfoyle, Ontario, November 27, 2017.

Almost two years after Nestle’s permit to take water in Aberfoyle expired and with a provincial election in Ontario just weeks away, the transnational corporation’s water taking permit applications for Aberfoyle and Hillsburgh have not yet been posted on the Environmental Registry of Ontario’s website.

The Council of Canadians is deeply deeply concerned that Nestle’s provincial permit to take 3.6 million litres of water a day in Aberfoyle expired on July 31, 2016, while its permit to take 1.1 million litres a day in Hillsburgh expired on August 31, 2017. We estimate that Nestle has pumped more than 1 billion litres of water on these expired permits.

Why the delay?

In April 2016, CTV reported, “Within the next few months, Nestle’s permit to take water from the Aberfoyle area will expire. The bottled water giant is seeking a 10-year renewal of that permit [to take water from the Grand River watershed] … Nestle filed its application to renew its water-taking permit earlier this week.”

By September 2016, a storm had hit when the Canadian Press reported, “A small but fast growing Ontario community looking for a safe drinking water supply has been outbid in its attempt to buy a well by multinational giant Nestlé, which acquired the site to ensure ‘future business growth’. Nestlé … bought the well from Middlebrook Water Company last month after having made a conditional offer in 2015.”

Public outrage followed that revelation and by June 8, 2017, the Government of Ontario had announced in this media release was “introducing new, stricter rules for renewals of existing bottled water permits”.

Almost nine months after that, on March 7 of this year, the City of Guelph issued this media release that stated, “The City of Guelph has signed an agreement to provide Nestlé Waters Canada with access to analysis from its science-based groundwater flow model through a consultant. …The MOECC [Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change] has asked the City to share analysis from its existing groundwater flow model with Nestlé Waters Canada to support new requirements for permit-to-take-water applications for companies that bottle water.”

Furthermore, the City of Guelph said, “Nestlé Waters will use the results to inform their permit to take water renewal application to the [MOECC] expected later this year.”

That would appear to imply after the June 7 provincial election.

Two weeks ago, CBC’s polls analyst Éric Grenier wrote, “According to the Poll Tracker, the Ontario PCs currently stand at 42.1 per cent support, putting them well ahead of their rivals. Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals trail with 27.2 per cent, followed by the New Democrats at 23.4 per cent and the Greens at 5.7 per cent. …The PCs are projected to have enough support to win between 60 and 97 seats – that lower number putting them just below the majority threshold. The Poll Tracker estimates that there is only a five per cent chance that the PCs would win a plurality of seats – but not a majority – at their current levels of support. Their chances of winning a majority are far greater, at 90 per cent.”

Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford does not appear to have issued a policy statement on this issue, but the Toronto Star has previously reported that clients of the Ford family firm, Deco Labels & Tags, includes Nestlé Canada Inc., Coca-Cola, Cara Operations and Porter Airlines.

In August 2014, The Globe and Mail reported, “Nestlé Canada, which says it has done about $20,000 worth of business with Deco since 2007, got involved in the [City of Toronto’s] bottle-ban debate after [Rob] Ford became mayor. On Nov. 26, 2012, a lobbyist acting for Nestlé Waters Canada – a division of Nestlé Canada – met with a member of Mayor Ford’s staff to discuss the bylaw, Toronto’s lobbyist registry indicates. A Nestle Waters official met with the Ford administration three times that year to discuss ‘recycling and diversion of beverage containers from waste, including bottled water’.”

Our ally Mike Nagy, Chair of Wellington Water Watchers, has commented, “A poll commissioned by the Wellington Water Watchers in 2016 found that a majority of Ontarians support phasing-out groundwater-taking for bottling, regardless of their political party affiliation. Over 70% of undecided voters support the phase-out.”

It is also important to keep in mind that Nestle still wants to extract 1.6 million litres of water a day from its Middlebrook well in Elora. The Ontario government’s regulations put a two year pause on that plan, but what will happen on January 1, 2019 – just seven months after the provincial election – when that temporary moratorium expires?

If you live in Ontario, be sure to ask candidates if they support eliminating permits that allow bottled water corporations to extract and exploit groundwater.

To take our pledge to boycott Nestle bottled water and products, that has now been signed by 63,742 people, please click here.