Committee rejects move to ban bottled water at Winnipeg facilities

A city committee has flushed an attempt to ban the sale of bottled water at municipal facilities.

A city committee has flushed an attempt to ban the sale of bottled water at municipal facilities.

Mayor Sam Katz and his cabinet voted unanimously Friday against the plan, after representatives from the bottled-water industry defended their product to the committee.

The motion before the executive policy committee suggested the city ban the sale of bottled water because the product is more expensive, no safer than tap water, and the plastic bottles are bad for the environment.

"It's just ludicrous," Harvey Smith, who brought forth the motion, told CBC News on Thursday.  "Our water is safer and better — and, you know, we're spending a fortune — we're spending over $200 million on a water-treatment plant to make our water even better."

John Challinor, from Nestle Waters Canada, came to Friday's meeting from Ontario to speak against the motion.

"[It's] nothing more than political green-washing, environmental symbolism, and bad public policy," he said.

Russell Loewen, who represents a bottled water company in Winnipeg, said it doesn't make sense to ban bottled water at arenas and pools, while allowing less healthy products, such as soft drinks.

"At a time when health professionals and governments are struggling with the issue of obesity and diabetes, you would be banning water from skating rinks but allowing the sale of french fries and chocolate bars?" he said.

Members of committee agreed, and said no to the motion. Smith said he was disappointed by the decision but not surprised, calling the committee a group of "stick in the muds."

While the motion got nowhere on Friday, it will go on to full council for debate later this month.

Several municipalities across Canada have banned bottled water at municipal facilities or meetings, including Charlottetown, St. John's, Nelson, B.C., and Waterloo and London in Ontario.