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NEWS: Nestle opposes Nanaimo becoming a blue community

Yesterday, the Parksville Qualicum News reported, “(Earlier this month), Paul Manley, from the Mid-Island chapter of the Council of Canadians, urged (Regional District of Nanaimo) directors to throw their weight behind a three-part proposal that would see the regional district commit to retaining publicly-owned water and sewage utilities, ban bottled water (in civic facilities) and recognize access to clean water as a human right. The move, he said, would make the regional district a so-called blue community, joining others such as Burnaby, Victoria and North Vancouver.”

Instead, “Directors voted unanimously to pass the recommendation to staff for a full report on the implications of such a move (including revenue loss from water commissions and costs of renegotiating with vendors). …Deputy RDN chair Diane Brennan Brenton (had) asked staff about the implications to previously-negotiated contracts with vending machine suppliers. She was informed that the RDN is about to enter into new vending contracts at both Oceanside Place and the Ravensong Aquatic Centre.”

Today, the Daily News reports, “The bottled-water industry shouldn’t hold sway over city council’s decision to ban sales in public facilities, says community advocate June Ross. …The proposal, put forward by local members of the Council of Canadians, has been applauded by Vancouver Island University, which has already taken steps to ban the sale of water on campus. But the proposal has received major push-back from bottled-water corporations, claiming the plastic is not harmful to the environment and should be offered as an alternative to other beverages. …Ross, a member of the Council of Canadians is ‘very angry’ about the lobbying campaign being waged behind the scenes and plans to remind council its public opinion that counts.”

The article continues, “City councillors have seen letter and e-mails from lobbyists hoping no further action on the ban will be taken. Nestle Waters Canada writes the Blue Communities designation is more of a political campaign by CUPE than an environmental initiative. and calls the proposed ban ‘an overly simplified, factually incorrect, feel-good resolution’.”

Council of Canadians & CUPE vs. Nestle
On April 3, John Challinor, the director of corporate affairs for Nestlé Waters Canada, wrote in The Daily News, “While June Ross and others are to be commended for their 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. In referring the matter to staff for a report, Nanaimo council clearly recognizes this resolution for what it is: a Trojan horse-like treatise developed solely to encourage municipalities to ban the sale of bottled water in their facilities under the guise of human rights and infrastructure management.”

On April 5, chapter activist June Ross responded, “Our presentation, had nothing whatsoever to do with Challinor’s preconceived notion that this is a CUPE plot to end the bottled water industry. This is a citizen ‘plot’ to rid ourselves of plastic bottles that are full of toxins, to rid ourselves of individuals paying 1,000 times the cost to drink bottled water (when in fact we have the best water anywhere that comes out of our taps), to rid our environment of the miles of plastic that have accumulated in our oceans and, finally, to rid ourselves of a corporation that is making huge profits off of a resource that belongs to we citizens and does not belong to a corporation. Challinor needs to get his facts straight before he writes such nonsense to our local papers.”

In other communities where Nestlé’s Challinor has challenged the Blue Communities Project, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow and CUPE president Paul Moist have responded, “We believe municipal governments and other public bodies should not spend public funds providing bottled water at meetings or events, when a cheaper and sustainable public alternative is readily available on tap. It simply doesn’t make financial or environmental sense. It’s laughable (and insulting to local elected officials) to suggest that city councillors are being duped by our call to re-think the use of bottled water. Decisions to end the sale of bottled water are made in public, after open and democratic debate. It’s hard to argue with that process.”

Barlow and Moist also note, “Mr. Challinor is dead wrong when he suggests our Blue Communities project is not an environmental initiative. Bottled water is packaged in a single-use, fossil fuel-based container. Some of those containers end up in landfills. And let’s not forget that recycling is the third of the three Rs, behind reduce and re-use. Transporting used bottles and then recycling them are both energy-intensive, polluting processes. Action on bottled water is the first step on a much longer path. Municipalities are at a crossroads of mounting infrastructure needs and rapidly dwindling federal infrastructure cash. Seizing the opportunity, the Harper government is targeting water and wastewater services for privatization. Federal funding to cash-strapped municipalities is currently only available on the condition that cities let corporations deliver water services on a for-profit basis. We welcome all advocacy for federal investment that will expand and strengthen our public water and sewer infrastructure.”

Making your community a blue community!
For more information on the Blue Communities Project – notably the helpful Blue Communities Project Guide, which includes sample resolutions, background information and more – please go to http://canadians.org/bluecommunities.

The Parksville Qualicum News report is at http://www.pqbnews.com/news/146189435.html.
The Daily News report is at http://www.canada.com/Nanaimo+resident+very+angry+with+bottled+water+industry+lobby/6425211/story.html.
Nestle’s letter to the editor is at http://www.canada.com/need+implement+bottled+water/6401615/story.html.
June Ross’ letter to the editor is at http://www2.canada.com/nanaimodailynews/news/upfront/story.html?id=ba8a2bc9-84c6-4251-9997-3bcd790f19b7.
The letter to the editor by Barlow and Moist is at http://www.simcoereformer.ca/2012/03/29/action-on-bottled-water-a-first-step.

And be sure to join us in Nanaimo on October 26-28 for our annual general meeting!