Nestlé protest doesn’t hold water

Online petition against Hope bottling plant based on Stephen Colbert's 'truthiness': premise is false, but it 'feels' true

Nestle water bottling plant is a convenient target for an international protest organization that doesn't have the slightest idea what's going on in B.C.

VICTORIA – Have you noticed the latest degradation of standards on TV news? In addition to sensational depictions of crime, accidents and celebrities, the lineup now incorporates any nonsense that is momentarily “viral” on the Internet.

So it was with an online petition singling out Swiss food corporation Nestlé, which operates a water bottling plant near Hope. It’s the largest in B.C., one of many that bottle the province’s water and sell it back to a gullible public.

This petition is courtesy of SumOfUs, one of those self-appointed environmental watchdogs that seem to pop up like mushrooms overnight. “Fighting for people over profits,” they claim, pitching for donations.

The story has what U.S. comedian Stephen Colbert calls “truthiness.” That’s when something is false, but it “feels” true.

“Nestlé is about to suck B.C. dry – for $2.25 per million litres to be exact,” says the SumOfUs headline.

Using her keen sense of what’s superficially popular, Premier Christy Clark instantly called for a review of these low rates for selling the people’s water.

It then fell to Environment Minister Mary Polak to explain what’s really going on.

“People keep saying there’s a deal with Nestlé,” Polak told reporters. “There isn’t. They pay the same as any other industrial user, in fact the highest industrial rate, and it goes for anything from hydraulic fracturing to bottled water, those involved in mining for example, any of those heavy industrial uses.”

And why is that rate so low? It’s because the province takes great pains not to “sell” water, which would make it a commodity under trade agreements, like oil or minerals. That would surrender provincial control, and allow the U.S. to press for equal access to Canadian water.

“You’re buying the right to use the water,” Polak said. “I know it sounds crazy to the public, but we call it a rental – a water rental. There’s a reason we use that language, because we are very careful to avoid any suggestion that by paying this amount, you therefore own that water.

“That reserves for us the right at any time, for a compelling public need, to say stop. It doesn’t matter if you have a licence.”

As for the brazenly false claim that Nestlé is sucking B.C. dry, I’m indebted to a real environmental professional named Blair King for explaining this. (His blog offers useful technical explanations of issues in the news, many of which contradict so-called environmentalists.)

King notes that the bottling plant uses less than one per cent of the flow through Kawkawa Lake:

“If Nestlé stopped operating (and put its 75 employees out of work and stopped paying municipal taxes) would there be more water for the rest of us?” he writes.

“Absolutely not. Kawkawa Lake drains its excess water into the Fraser River, which drains into the Strait of Georgia. Neither the Fraser River at Hope nor the Strait of Georgia is particularly short of water, even in the driest of years.”

Clark made one useful contribution, when asked about this urgent non-issue by those seeking to further sensationalize the current drought and forest fires.

She correctly noted that most B.C. residents have access to the best tap water in the world, and have no need for bottled water.

Nestlé, Perrier, Coke, Pepsi and other companies have done a fantastic job of convincing people that their drinking water has to be delivered in bottles from some mythical pure source.

Here’s a tip, Nestlé critics: Fill a jug with water and stick it in the fridge. Fight the corporations.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Just Posted

Cowichan ballers Most Outstanding

Brentwood and Shawnigan players honoured at Seniors Classic

Mary Lowther column: Trellises worth their weight in rebar and wood

When I let them fall where they may, slugs came out of nowhere and dissolved any tomato or pea

Lexi Bainas column: Caregiving, empowering women, and then a little time to relax

We’ve got an author’s journey, a white-hot collective, a new kids’ book, and a way to jazz up your May

Revolving door for Isles at Kerry Park

Connors says goodbye, team welcomes Brendan Martin

Police defuse situation after man barricades himself in Duncan house

The sight of an armoured RCMP vehicle had neighbours worried in the Auchinachie-Drombeg area

VIDEO: B.C. ‘escapologist’ stuns judges on Britain’s Got Talent

Matt Johnson says televised water stunt was closest he’s come to death

Coming up in Cowichan: In Bloom festival; charity drive; Coffee with a Cop

In Bloom Wildflower Festival on this Saturday On Saturday, April 28 the… Continue reading

NAFTA talks hold Foreign Affairs Minister in Washington, substitute heads to NATO summit

NAFTA talks keeping Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, sends substitute to NATO summit

Britain gives long-lost Franklin expedition ships to Canada, Inuit

Deeds to HMS Erebus and HMS Terror signed over to Canada and Inuit Heritage Trust

Grief over deadly Toronto van attack sinks in

Three days after rampage, people still gathering at memorial to lay flowers and honour victims

Liberals urged to tax e-commerce services like Netflix

Trudeau has been adamant that his government wouldn’t increase taxes on online subscriptions

Why some B.C. daycares didn’t opt in to subsidy program

Deadline passes for program aimed at laying foundation for universal child care

Charges follow collisions between pickup and police vehicles in Nanaimo

Majore Jackson, 32, and Andrew John Bellwood, 47, from Nanaimo, face numerous charges

Most Read