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WIN! Hamilton city council votes to drastically reduce bottled water in city recreation facilities

Four members of The Council of Canadians Hamilton chapter celebrate at Hamilton City Hall after City Council voted to accept the Healthy Food and Beverage Action Plan.

The Council of Canadians Hamilton chapter is celebrating a Hamilton city council vote in favour of a plan that will see sales of sugary drinks and bottled water drastically reduced in city recreation facilities.

Ten days ago, the Hamilton Spectator reported, “[The Healthy Food and Beverage Action Plan] does not call for an outright ban, but instead suggests the city ‘reduce the availability’ of bottled water and sugary drinks like pop, Gatorade, fruit juice and even slushies in vending machines and concession stands. The change would [occur in 2021] when the city’s beverage contract expires with Coca Cola. …Councillor Aidan Johnson, who asked for a study two years ago on axing bottled water sales in city facilities, said he considers the plan a ‘qualified ban’ and a ‘carefully crafted compromise’.”

The newspaper’s editorial board had commented, “Make no mistake, city hall has an ethical responsibility to reflect positive trends in healthy eating and drinking. And reducing consumption of sugary drinks – pop, slushies, Gatorade and fruit juices – is just that. …[The city will also] promote the sale of reusable water bottles and have adequate drinking fountains available for refilling purposes. …Water bottle-makers argue they shouldn’t be penalized because, after all, plastic bottles are recyclable. That misses the point, which is that bottles by the millions are not being recycled, but end up discarded, polluting our water, endangering wildlife, ruining our landscapes and cluttering landfills.”

It concluded, “This is sound public policy.”

On May 14, the City’s Board of Health voted 6-3 in favour of the plan and their motion went to City Council last night.

Now, Global News reports, “Hamilton City Council, in a vote of 9-6, finalized a three-year plan to gradually reduce the sale of bottled water and sugary drinks at the city’s arenas and recreation centres. The plan, which calls for more healthy food and beverage choices in city facilities, is an attempt to address the obesity epidemic and the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills and the local watershed.”

And last night Hamilton Spectator reporter Matthew Van Dongen tweeted, “After surprisingly lengthy debate, Hamilton will cut down on (if not actually ban) sugary drinks and bottled water in rec centres.”

Hamilton chapter activist Mary Love, who presented to the Board of Health on this last week, explains, “The plan will have a public education component, as well as making water fountains more visible. Incredible as it may seem to those of us who call on the province of Ontario to ban private water extraction outright, the vote on this much more phased in plan was hotly contested by some of those who spoke against the motion.”

The Hamilton chapter has been working on this issue for more than a year. In April 2017, it presented to the Board of Health in support of Councillor Johnson’s proposed ban on local groundwater extraction for non-agricultural commercial activity. Then in June of last year Maude Barlow spoke at a Hamilton chapter organized public forum at City Hall on water issues alongside Councillor Johnson.

Congratulations to the Hamilton chapter!

Further reading
Hamilton chapter calls on Board of Health to protect groundwater from bottled water takings (April 25, 2017)