Comox council took a green step forward Wednesday toward becoming a blue community.
With a 4-3 vote, council passed an amended resolution of the Council of Canadians’ Blue Communities Project, which calls for a national water policy.
The Council of Canadians has approached municipalities throughout Canada asking for resolutions supporting three particular initiatives. In 2011, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities passed a resolution to call upon the federal government to fulfill its responsibility to invest in the renewal and replacement of aging local government infrastructure, in a manner that ensures continued public ownership.
The three initiatives which were brought forth by Coun. Barbara Price were to recognize water as a human right; to promote publicly owned and operated water and waste water infrastructure, and to ban the sale of bottled water in municipal facilities and at municipal events.
After some amendments and debate on the first two initiatives, a ban on the sale of bottled water was questioned by some councillors.
Price asked for the initiative to be amended so that the Town of Comox moves towards phasing out the sale of bottled water, rather than it be resolved as a firm initiative.
“Well it sounds to me that you want to have a foot on the boat and a foot on the dock at the same time,” said Coun. Ken Grant. “I don’t really understand. You either do this or you don’t. It’s another one of those out-in-the-clouds resolutions and shouldn’t there be some sort of end result?”
Price responded said that the technologies may not be ready to carry out all of the parts of the resolution.
“We can only ethically say no sale of bottled drinking water at events if we have a means for people to have water available and in our facilities. There may be changes that we need to put into place,” she noted, and added rather as an absolute resolution, council is making a commitment the resolution is a priority to move towards implementation.
Grant replied he has a concern with larger events, such as Nautical Days and the Comox Cup, with the location of events, and the amount of bottle water needed, particularly for sporting events.
“It also seems a little wrong to me that you could go to Nautical Days and you can buy a soda pop that would be bad for you … and water, which is quite good for you, you wouldn’t be able to buy,” he noted.
Coun. Patti Fletcher said particularly with sporting events, a lot of sponsorship comes from water bottle companies, and many events are off-site, far from an available water source.
“For participants, it’s critical — it’s valuable — to keep them hydrated,” she added.
The resolution was divided into five parts, and included that single-use bottled water will no longer be sold in any Town-owned or administered concessions or vending machines in public facilities where access to municipal tap water exists; that where municipal water is not readily available, a plan be put into motion to increase access to municipal water to safety requirements, budge and other considerations and that town staff develop a public awareness campaign to support the rationale for the changes.
Council voted in favour of an amendment to remove an item line that would increase the availability of water jugs with municipal water, as health and contamination issues were brought forth by Richard Kanigan, the Town’s chief administrative officer.
When called to a vote, Couns. Fletcher, Price, Hugh MacKinnon and Mayor Paul Ives voted in favour, while Couns. Grant and Maureen Swift voted against. Coun. Tom Grant was absent.