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Sudbury chapter tells Ontario government it is failing to protect water from Nestlé

The Council of Canadians Sudbury chapter has written Ontario Premier Wynne to express its disappointment over her government’s new regulations on bottled water takings.

Chapter activist Glenn Murray writes, “As you are working hard to gain favour with Ontario voters on almost the eve of the next election, the one thing your government continues to drop the ball on is protecting the absolutely most precious resource we have, water. You are putting this valuable resource at risk for the benefit of a well known greedy multinational… Plus, to top it off, you are adding to an already uncontrollable environmental situation with the saturation of our highways, byways, waterways, and landfills, with plastic, single use containers that the bottled water comes in.”

The Ontario government has announced modest changes to how bottled water companies, including Nestlé Waters Canada, are regulated in the province – but their tweaking falls well short of the substantive demands made by more than 20,000 people during recent public consultations.

On April 21, the government said it would:

  • reduce the length of water extraction permits granted to bottled water companies (the length of a permit, that could still be renewed many times over, would be reduced from 10 years to 5 years)

  • implement a mandatory reduction on water taking during a drought (but not stop that water taking)

  • increase Indigenous and public notification, consultation and reporting (but did not say that community consent would be required for bottled water permits to be issued by the government).

It had also recently announced it would:

  • place a two-year moratorium on new and expanded permits to take water (rather than stopping new permits)

  • increase the fee from $3.71 to $503.71 per million litres of water taken (which equates to one-twentieth of a penny a litre of water taken).

This falls far below the demands made by those who called for a permanent moratorium on new permits (not a two-year pause), the phasing out of bottled water operations (not reducing 10-year permits to 5-year permits), and recognition of the right to free, prior and informed consent for affected Indigenous peoples (not merely increased notification, consultation and reporting).

The next provincial election will be held on or before June 7, 2018.

A Forum Research poll conducted in late March suggests the Progressive Conservatives would win a huge majority of 86 seats in the 122 seat legislature (with 43 per cent of the popular vote), the NDP would be the Official Opposition (with 29 seats and 28 per cent of the vote), and that the governing Liberals would be reduced to 7 seats with 19 per cent of the vote (meaning they would also lose official party status in the legislature).