Globe and Mail columnist Gwyn Morgan writes, “Politicians and regulators frequently come under pressure from ill-informed groups opposing a commercial venture, even when it’s clear it will have no discernible impact – environmental or otherwise. Consider the many proposals to bottle and sell water from four of B.C.’s remote coastal mountain streams. Although the amount of water involved is infinitesimal compared with flow volumes, and although the fresh-water streams go on to mingle with the salty Pacific, five environmental groups have demanded a full environmental assessment of ‘cumulative impacts’. …Public-policy decisions that ignore scientific facts in favour of pressure from vocal minorities can kill job-creating commercial ventures, or cause unnecessary public expenditures. In both cases, society loses.”
Who is Gwyn Morgan? He is a corporate director with EnCana, SNC-Lavalin and HSBC. He is also a trustee with the Fraser Institute and a director with The Manning Centre for Building Democracy. While with EnCana, Morgan sat on the Canadian Council of Chief Executives’ CEO Action Group on North American Security and Prosperity.
Why is he so wrong? This past February, the Victoria Times Colonist reported, “A deluge of connected applications to extract water for bottling — from more than 40 streams around four remote inlets on the B.C. Central Coast — has prompted a flurry of requests for a full provincial environmental assessment. The applications, now individually under consideration by the Natural Resource Operations Ministry, envisage taking about 112,000 litres a day from each of the streams. The water would then be barged to Vancouver and bottled. …As the applications are connected, the cumulative environmental effects — rather than the effects of individual withdrawals — need to be studied, say the Campbell River Council of Canadians, Friends of Bute Inlet, Sierra Club Malaspina, Sierra Club Quadra Island and Sunshine Coast Conservation Association. All have asked Environment Minister Murray Coell for an environmental assessment.”
Campbell River chapter activists Joanne Banks and Rich Hagensen have previously written of the bottling license applications, “Why would we wish to encourage the further commodification of our coastal watersheds by setting up a bottled water plant in Campbell River and exporting our water? Why add millions of plastic water bottles to landfills, roadsides and oceans?” North Island NDP MLA Claire Trevena has stated, “I have met with the Minister of Environment, Murray Coell, and hope that he looks at these plans as a whole, and orders a cumulative environmental assessment. We need accountability on this – not a quick survey.’” She adds, “Water is a precious resource and a human right. We have to protect against it being simply a commodity to be owned and traded.”
The bulk of the dozens of water bottling license applications – in Bute, Knight, Jervis and Toba Inlets – were filed in 2010 and are now in the hands of the BC Ministry of Resource Operations.