A senior Ontario cabinet minister is coming to Nestlé's defence, suggesting public opposition to the renewal of the
multinational company's water-taking permit in a small community is based on "misinformation."
There has been vocal opposition and protests against renewing Nestlé's permit in Aberfoyle, Ont., after the area 110 kilometres northwest of Toronto suffered a drought this summer that forced residents to restrict their water use.
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Treasury Board President Liz Sandals, who represents nearby Guelph, said Wednesday she finds it frustrating that many residents who have been criticizing Nestlé are often armed with the wrong facts.
"There's no doubt that there is a lot of concern, but my point to you is that many of the things that people will express a concern about actually turn out to be based on misinformation," she said.
'Many of the things that people will express a concern about actually turn out to be based on misinformation.' - Guelph MPP and Treasury Board President Liz Sandals
Sandals said many residents didn't know that Nestlé agreed to reduce water takings from Aberfoyle because of the drought, and insisted it was routine to see so many people voicing opposition to the bottled water company's permit renewal.
"It is actually always true that whenever there is a permit to take water (by Nestlé) there are thousands of comments that go to the Ministry of the Environment," she said. "I think what is different this time is that it has caught more provincial media attention."
Residents have done homework
Progressive Conservative Ted Arnott, who represents Wellington-Halton Hills – which includes Aberfoyle and Hillsburgh,
where Nestlé has another well – said he thinks residents who oppose the company's permit renewal know their facts.
"My constituents are smart people who do their homework and research, and I'm not going to criticize them for expressing concerns," he said.
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Arnott said local residents are expressing "anxiety and concern about whether there's enough groundwater" for the fast-growing region.
"Our groundwater belongs to everybody and we have a responsibility to protect it for today and for future generations,"
Guelph residents will be able speak to Nestlé's application at a city council meeting Nov. 7, which was set up after one councillor moved a motion to ask the province to stop Nestlé from operating in Aberfoyle.
Review of fees ordered
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne ordered a review of the fees Ontario charges bottled water companies – currently just $3.71 per one million litres – before the province rules on Nestlé's renewal application. It's not known when the decision will be made.
In the meantime, Nestlé is allowed to keep taking up to 3.6 million litres a day from the Aberfoyle well, while the government decides on renewing its old permit, which expired in July.
Arnott introduced a motion to have the province share revenue from increased fees or taxes for water taking with the
municipalities where the water is being drawn.
Nestlé employs over 300 people at its bottling plant in Aberfoyle.
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It recently purchased a well in Elora, the former Middlebrook Water Company. Nestlé had a conditional offer on the property and waived any conditions after an anonymous second buyer made an offer on the well. It was revealed in August the second buyer was the Township of Centre Wellington.
There are local and international petitions opposing Nestlé's water-taking permit and its purchase of the new well in Centre Wellington.
Author Margaret Atwood posted a link to one petition on her Twitter feed Wednesday, adding, "Tell Nestlé to get
its hands off of Ontario's water supply."
The Guelph Mercury-Tribune reported Wednesday that local activists are slapping red-and-yellow stickers that say, "Tap Water! Drink it from your faucet and save 630 per cent" on shrink-wrapped packages of Nestlé bottled water in local stores.