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

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pay guarantee removed for some Kootenay on-call paramedics

Guarantee phased out as BCEHS introduces a new “scheduled on call” model

No active confirmed COVID-19 cases in Interior Health: BCCDC

Numbers from the BCCDC’s dashboard show 193 of the 195 COVID-19 cases in the region have recovered

Cyclist reportedly struck along Kinnaird Bridge in Castlegar

The bridge has since reopened to traffic

Mercer Celgar to temporarily lay off majority of Castlegar mill workers in July

The company said it’s possible that the workers could be laid off for more than a month

First Energy Metals set to start gold exploration work in the West Kootenay

The work will be conducted at two of its sites near Nakusp and Nelson

22 new COVID-19 test-positives, one death following days of low case counts in B.C.

Health officials urged British Columbians to ‘stand together while staying apart’

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

Nelson counsellor works online with university students in central Asia during pandemic

Robin Higgins is home from her job in Tajikistan because of COVID-19

New study is first full list of species that only exist in Canada

Almost 40 per cent of them are critically imperilled or imperilled and eight are already extinct

Angel Flight takes flight from Creston after being grounded by COVID-19

Angel Flight is a volunteer-run organization which gives people flights to doctors appointments

Nature Conservancy takes in more lands near Canal Flats

Badgers, bears and birds to benefit from bolstering bunchgrass conservation in Rocky Mountain Trench

Most Read