Guelph to allow public to comment on Nestle issue in November

After two hours of debate, Guelph council voted Monday night to discuss the issue of water taking permits during its Nov. 7 meeting.

Council agreed to discuss a motion from Coun. James Gordon at its Nov. 7 committee meeting

Protesters gather outside Guelph City Hall ahead of a Monday night meeting where delegates where not allowed to address city politicians about Nestle's watertaking permit in nearby Aberfoyle. Opponents will have to wait until Nov. 7 to have their say. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Residents in Guelph who are eager to speak out about local companies bottling water and shipping it out of the area will have their chance to address council in a little over a month.

Council agreed Monday night to allow delegates to speak at the Nov. 7 committee meeting.

It came after Coun. James Gordon put forward a motion to have the city ask the province to stop Nestle from operating in Aberfoyle. His initial motion was amended to include the date, which was chosen because staff had indicated there may be a report ready at that time.

Gordon said residents are keenly interested in protecting their water and do not want to wait.

"The public is demanding, in this case, we go beyond that and we take a stand now," he said.

"The whole country seems to be looking on tonight, looking for leadership from us," he added.

"This motion isn't doing things by the book. Maybe it's time to rewrite the book in these extraordinary times."

Important issue

Before the meeting, more than 150 people gathered outside calling on council to support Gordon's motion.

Local potter Bunny Safari brought her 10-year-old son, Darwin Zandar, because she wanted him to see how important the issue was to the community.

Zandar held a sign that read, "When the well runs dry, all our tears won't replenish the drought."

Adam Inniss, 16, said he attended the rally because he is concerned about water sources and what it will mean for his future.

"I think it's very important for everyone of all ages to be vocal about what they believe in," he said.
Water has been a contentious issue for years in the Guelph area, but it has become particularly charged after Nestle kept pumping ground water this summer, despite sizzling temperatures and parched conditions. (CBC File Photo)

'This is our water'

Nestle has applied to the province to renew its permit to take water in Aberfoyle, where the company has a bottling facility. That application has not yet been posted by the Ministry of the Environment to the Environmental Registry for public comment.

Many of the people from the rally went into city hall and filled council chambers and an overflow room to observe the more than two hour debate over Gordon's motion.

They cheered loudly when council approved an amendment to bring the matter back before council Nov. 7. The amended motion was approved after a break.

During the rally, Brian Holstein said he hopes people will speak up when the matter comes before council.

"It's about time people started to say, hey, wait a minute. Wait a bloody minute. This is our water, that's my grandkids' water, and it's going to be their grandkids' water, so I've got to do what I can to protect it," he said.