An overwhelming majority of Ontarians want their government to prioritize community drinking water needs over those of commercial water-bottling companies, according to a new poll which also supports the call for Nestlé Waters Canada to sell a well it purchased this summer to the local municipality as its residents have demanded.
The poll (pdf), conducted by Oraclepoll Research on behalf of the Council of Canadians, surveyed 1,200 respondents between December 8-13, 2016. Its findings overall clearly demonstrate that "[p]eople do not want companies like Nestlé to profit from water," as Maude Barlow, the group's national chairperson, declared.
Specifically, the poll found:
- 93 percent support the provincial government placing a priority on the drinking water needs of local communities over any pending applications from commercial bottling companies to acquire groundwater sources.
- 69 percent support the Ontario government holding a series of public consultations to determine how water use is prioritized in the province.
- 68 percent support the provincial government requiring Nestlé to sell the Elora well to the Township of Centre Wellington.
- 65 percent support a permanent phase-out of all permits for bottled water takings (water bottling operations) by the Ontario government.
"Based on these numbers, the Ontario government needs to considerably strengthen its regulations on bottled water and work towards phasing out all bottled water permits, not just new or expanded permits," said Emma Lui, national water campaigner for the Council of Canadians.
"We're urging the Ontario government to act on these poll results by organizing public consultations and facilitating community debate on how water use should be prioritized in the province," she said. "For too long, the Permit to Take Water system has haphazardly been issuing water permits. This must stop, and the Ontario government must begin truly protecting water for communities."
The Elora, Ontario, well is quickly becoming a flash point in the fight over water rights in Canada, Mark Calzavara, the Ontario-Quebec regional organizer for the Council of Canadians, told CBC News. "It is the most important, or clearest contest, between a municipality and a bottled water company," he said.
Nestlé purchased the well earlier this year, as Common Dreams reported, outbidding the Township of Centre Wellington and helping to spark a growing Boycott Nestlé effort. Just last week, news outlets reported that Nestlé was in fact seeking to develop a "partnership" between the company and the Township of Centre Wellington—causing local water protectors to bristle.
"Mayor [Kelly] Linton needs to make an immediate public statement that he does not support any 'partnership' agreement with Nestlé," said Arlene Slocombe, executive director of Wellington Water Watchers, which claims such a deal would merely be an attempt by Nestlé to get around an existing moratorium. "If he is engaged in discussions with Nestlé he needs to end those discussions immediately, and respect the wishes of the community and say 'No to Nestlé.' Water is for life, not for profit."
Slocombe's group and Saveourwater.ca are organizing an emergency public community meeting for Wednesday, January 4 in Elora to tell Linton and the Township Council to once again say "No to Nestlé."