Guelph mayor denies trying to prevent debate on Nestlé's water taking in Aberfoyle

Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie has been accused of trying to stymie debate on Nestlé bottling water in nearby Aberfoyle but he says he is following procedural rules and the public will be able to discuss the issue in the near future.

Not permitting delegations to discuss issue on Monday a matter of procedure, Mayor Cam Guthrie says

Guelph Coun. James Gordon plans to introduce a motion Monday asking council to send a letter to the province opposing Nestle's application to renew its permit to take water in Aberfoyle. (CBC)

Guelph's mayor says he is not trying to shut down debate on the city's position on Nestlé's application to renew its water taking permit in Aberfoyle.

Mayor Cam Guthrie said he wants to hear from residents when the issue is scheduled to come before council in November.

"There is no, kind of, rogue mayor or hidden agenda here from the evil mayor that's trying to stop anything. I am open for any debate on any issue, I just think there's a right time and place for it and all I'm asking is that right time and right place happen," Guthrie told CBC News.

Motion coming forward Monday

The issue has come forward now because councillor James Gordon plans to introduce a motion Monday that recommends sending a letter to the province to say the city does not support Nestle's application.
Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie. (City of Guelph)

Guthrie said city staff have been working on a report about the application and that is due to come before council in November.

He has suggested Gordon withdraw his motion and wait for that report.

"Emotion's great, fine, we're all emotional about the things we're passionate about. But at the same time, I kind of want to be fully informed. To basically say to our staff, you can't comment on it yet, and we're trying to make the decision, it just doesn't seem right to me and actually, it doesn't seem right to a lot of people over the last week that have been reaching out to me," Guthrie said.

Councillors opinions 'separate issue'

Gordon argued Guthrie doesn't want to discuss the issue at hand.

"The only reason, in my view, that I have been asked to withdraw the motion is that some on council don't think that it is in our jurisdiction to comment on an aquifer or water taking permit that exists outside of our city limits. And yet, when you get under the ground, the water doesn't know what city it's in. We know there's an inter connectivity," Gordon said in an interview.

"Since [city staff are] not, and cannot be political, all they can say is, 'Yes, we've looked at the data, water's still comes out of the taps.' As soon as you get into speculating about our future sustainability, that's the job of politicians, I think. That will not be reflected in a staff report, so I think, I'm happy if those things come hand-in-hand, but it feels like a separate issue, that the city take a stand reflecting public will."

Take water permits under review

After a dry summer, there has been rising pressure from advocates to have the province stop Nestlé from taking water in Aberfoyle.

In August, Premier Kathleen Wynne said the province will review all take water permits in the province. She said there is a difference between farmers and the industrial sector taking water and those who bottle it to sell it elsewhere.
The province has said it will review water taking permits for bottled water companies. (Associated Press)

"There's the issue of the quantity of water that's taken, there's the issue of the cost of that water," Wynne said.

Ontario's Environment Minister Glen Murray said there are also concerns bottled water companies have "maybe too sweet a deal."

Follow procedural rules

In a recent blog post, Guthrie said delegations would not be permitted to discuss Gordon's motion at the September 26 meeting. That was met with critics who said he was trying to shut down debate.

When you get under the ground, the water doesn't know what city it's in.- Guelph Coun. James Gordon

"There's some frustration and anger that they won't be allowed to delegate or speak to it," Gordon said, noting there is a rally planned in front of city hall Monday before the meeting and he anticipates the gallery in council chambers will be full.

Guthrie said those are the procedural rules in place and council must follow them.

"I have been accused over the last little while, I was reading just today, where Cam Guthrie the mayor has decided that there's no delegations allowed. Well, that's not accurate. It's actually our procedural bylaw for the city that does not allow it," Guthrie said.


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