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.

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

Victoria police are asking for help locating Izabel Villeneuve, 14, who was last seen Jan. 19. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Victoria police seek help locating missing 14-year-old

Izabel Villeneuve was last seen in the morning of Jan. 19

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Victoria says sale of the planned subdivision will increase the club’s ability to provide services and support. (Courtesy of Association for the Protection of Rural Metchosin)
Victoria Boys and Girls Club says youth would benefit from Metchosin land sale

Club says sale will guarantee supports and programs at time when demand high

Jan. 21 marks the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century, according to some. (Black Press Media file photo)
The 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century is upon us – maybe

Milestone won’t be back for another 100 years

Environment Canada is forecasting snow for the east Vancouver Island region the weekend of Jan. 23. (Black Press file)
Up to 15 cm of snow forecast for Vancouver Island this weekend

Snow on Malahat to begin Saturday night, according to Environment Canada

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Aquaculture employee from Vancouver Island, Michelle, poses with a comment that she received on social media. Facebook group Women in Canadian Salmon Farming started an online campaign #enoughisenough to highlight the harassment they were facing online after debates about Discovery Islands fish farms intensified on social media. (Submitted photo)
Female aquaculture employees report online bullying, say divisive debate has turned sexist

Vancouver Island’s female aquaculture employees start #enoughisenough to address misogynistic comments aimed at them

Most Read