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

Maggie Ferguson continues to deliver pet food to communities in B.C’s Central Interior and North. She hopes to make things easier by eventually purchasing a truck and trailer through fundraising efforts. (Perfect Pastures Animal Sanctuary Facebook photo)
From Delta with love, Maggie Ferguson helps northern pet owners with food

Animal sanctuary owner leads efforts in delivering thousands of pounds of pet food

(Tribune file photo)
Roses to Good Samaritans who helped me during theft

It restores one’s faith in human nature

A man wearing a mask against coronavirus walks past an NHS advertisement about COVID-19 in London, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
92 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths: Interior Health

The region is reporting 92 cases after the weekend

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A student from Dawson Creek is the winner of Tolko’s Orange Shirt Day design contest for 2021. (Tolko photo)
Tolko contest features northern winner

Student from Dawson Creek beats out entries Canadawide for Orange Shirt Day design contest win

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

Vernon’s Noric House long-term care facility’s COVID-10 outbreak has been declared over by Interior Health. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
COVID outbreak at Vernon’s Noric House declared over

10 deaths were linked to the outbreak at long-term care facility

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Churches, including Langley’s Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)
Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Most Read