I read with interest about Comox Valley municipalities being encouraged to consider a bottled water ban.
While Council of Canadians’ Comox Valley Chapter member Linda Safford is to be commended for her commitment to environmental sustainability, the Blue Communities Project is not an environmental initiative — it’s a political campaign being waged by the Canadian Union of Public Employees against the Canadian beverage industry and its 13,000 employees.
CUPE national president Paul Moist acknowledged this in recent correspondence in the Owen Sound Sun Times, Toronto Sun and Waterloo Chronicle when he wrote, “Nestlé spokesperson John Challinor is partly right about CUPE’s joint work with the Council of Canadians on bottled water. The Blue Communities Project is absolutely a political campaign. What could be more appropriate than grassroots activism that invites our elected local representatives to have a democratic, public debate about how scarce municipal tax dollars should be spent.”
In receiving Ms. Safford’s presentation and taking no further action, councils in the Town of Comox, City of Courtenay and Comox Valley Regional District clearly recognize 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.
These councils should be commended for exercising critical, independent thinking in the face of an overly simplified, factually incorrect, feel-good resolution prepared by the council and CUPE about complex matters that either eliminates future viable policy alternatives or extends well beyond their municipalities’ legislative authority.
We agree with the council and CUPE that water is a human right. And given that Canada has a $21-billion water and sewer infrastructure deficit resulting in, among other things, more than 1,500 boil-water orders across the country last year, we also support continued investment in our municipal systems.
Where we draw the line with the council and CUPE is their misguided and misleading attempts to ban the sale of bottled water in public facilities. Bottled water does not compete with tap water. More than 70 per cent of Canadians drink both. They consume tap water at home and bottled water on-the-go for proper hydration, better health and simple convenience.
Purchasing bottled water does not impact much-needed investments in Canada’s water and sewer infrastructure. Canadians pay local, provincial and federal taxes with the expectation that a portion of those funds will be invested to properly maintain their municipal water systems. They spend their disposable income on a myriad of consumer items, including bottled water.
About 80 per cent of plastic beverage containers, including bottled water, were recycled in B.C. last year, according to Encorp Pacific, the provincial steward responsible. The Canadian beverage industry is working with government and consumers to improve on that diversion rate through such initiatives as public spaces recycling.
John B. Challinor II,
Editor’s note: John B. Challinor is the director of corporate affairs for Nestlé Waters Canada.