Nestlé is opposing the idea of Thunder Bay becoming a blue community.
Their director of corporate affairs John B. Challinor II writes in the Chronicle Journal, “Thunder Bay council has referred the Blue Communities Project resolution put forward by the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Union of Public Employees to staff for a report. In taking the cautious approach that it did, it appears that council fully recognizes this resolution for what it is: a Trojan horse-like treatise developed solely to encourage Canadian municipalities to ban the sale of bottled water in their facilities under the guise of human rights and infrastructure management.”
He continues, “While (Council of Canadians activist) Janice Horgos is to be commended for her commitment to environmental sustainability, the Blue Communities Project is not an environmental initiative — it’s a political campaign being waged by CUPE against the Canadian beverage industry and its 13,000 employees across Canada.”
Challinor claims, “We agree with the council and CUPE that water is a human right. And given that Canada has a $31 billion water and sewer infrastructure deficit resulting in, amongst other things, more than 1,500 boil-water orders across the country last year, we also support continued investment in our municipal systems. Where we draw the line with the council and CUPE is their misguided and misleading attempts to ban the sale of bottled water in public facilities.”
While Nestlé obviously opposes a ban on bottled water sales, Challinor’s other assertions are questionable.
First of all, Vevey, Switzerland-based Nestlé S.A. chairman Peter Brabeck has stated, “I have been fighting for water as a human right for hydration and hygiene since the beginning but I have always said this is 1.5% of the water that we are using. There is no doubt this is a human right and it is a right that has to be assured by governments. But this has nothing to do with the irresponsible usage of water of the other 98.5% of it.” Blue Planet Project campaigner Meera Karunananthan has commented, “Brabeck’s prescription of protecting 1.5% for basic human needs while leaving 98.5% up for grabs for corporations to purchase, is a recipe for disaster rather than a solution to global water scarcity.”
Secondly, Challinor’s statement that Nestlé supports “continued investment in our municipal systems” is not the same as the blue community project’s call for “publicly financed, owned and operated water and waste water services”. Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has written, “Brabeck uses his role with the World Bank’s Water Resources Group to promote commodifying the world’s water. The group’s strategy is to insert the private sector into water management, one country at a time… In order to be eligible for funding, all projects must provide for at least one partner from the private sector. This violates the World Bank’s own goal of poverty alleviation, its stated commitment to the right to water and sanitation, and it’s rules on transparency.”
And it is curious that Challinor concludes his letter with a description of the blue community project as a resolution “that either eliminates future viable policy alternatives or extends well beyond the city’s current legislative authority.”
The Council of Canadians calls on Mayor Keith Hobbs and city council to recognize Thunder Bay as a blue community. In doing so, they’ll be joining a growing list of fourteen other cities including Victoria, North Vancouver, St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Nanaimo, and even Bern, Switzerland.