Having written previously on the breath-taking legalized theft of our groundwater made possible by an Ontario Liberal government that has yet to meet a corporate entity it doesn't love, I avidly follow public reaction to this outrage. Today's Star offers an excellent series of letters on the topic, two of which I reproduce below:
Re: Let's stop being suckered by water-bottling giants, Aug. 27
The long-standing practice of allowing our fresh water supplies to be drawn by huge private commercial multinational companies like Nestlé and bottled for profit is egregious. In the ultimate perverse and twisted irony of capitalism a free, publicly owned resource is privatized and then sold back to those who previously owned it.
For decades the Ontario government has allowed Nestlé and other private companies to draw Ontario’s fresh water from our aquifers at literally no charge so that it could be bottled and sold back to us at a massive profit in the form of bottled water, beer and soda pop. After an outcry at this practice by environmentalists many years ago, they then placed an insultingly low token fee on the water of $3.71 per 1 million litres and quietly allowed Nestle to continue taking an average of 3 million litres a day of our publicly owned finite resource for bottled water.
Recently, without fanfare the Ontario government renewed the agreement. This should have been a large front-page headline in the Star but was not even noted.
As Ontarians we should all be outraged that a large multinational private enterprise is given our water without charge and under secrecy by our own government in what amounts to nothing more than legalized corporate theft with the willing collusion of the province.
Ontarians gain absolutely nothing from these arrangements while losing our finite supply of fresh water; Nestlé gets everything.
What possible motivations or explanation could the government have for agreeing to such terms while they are struggling with a large cumulative debt and an ongoing deficit and cutting government funding for a variety of critical services? What obligation does the government feel to a faceless mega-corporation that is happily stealing our water for its own enrichment with the blessing of the government? This is corruption at the highest level. Would Nestle agree to the deal if the terms were reversed?
The Ontario government is willingly forgoing billions in water revenues that are desperately needed. Why would the government at the very least not bottle our own water and sell it on the open market to recoup full value for Ontarians for this precious resource while eliminating the middle-man? Water bottling is not a sophisticated, expensive or complex process.
This is yet another example of the corruption of free enterprise and the willing collusion of our own public officials in its practice much like the recent revelations about offshore tax havens. The Minister of the Environment should resign. These agreements should all be cancelled.
We are regularly treated to egregious examples of governments selling off public assets to the private sector in perpetuity at fire-sale prices. It happened with Highway 407, it is happening with Hydro and it has been going on for decades with our water. The private sector is licking its chops over the LCBO. Where will it end and when will we have and demand a government that is truly a steward of the shared resources we all own.
The sale of any public asset should be placed under the lens of critical public scrutiny. These public resources are not theirs to sell to the lowest bidder! There should be a public inquiry into the privatization of public assets. If this keeps up soon we will have water, water everywhere but not a drop that we own.
Robert Bahlieda, Newmarket
Martin Regg Cohn’s evaluation of Nestlé’s right to bottle large quantities of Ontario water at a cheap price, then to sell it back to us, reveals an insidious corporate profit-making ploy that has gone on for several years. It happens in the U.S., too.
I suppose that Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne believes that $3.75 per million liters of water is better than nothing, but she fails to note the effect on rural aquifers. Farmers depend totally on water they draw from their expensive wells, and resent bottling companies drawing down their valuable resource so city folk can sip from costly plastic bottles.
I hope that this report will persuade some Torontonians to revert to tap water, thereby reducing Nestlé’s profits and water draw. Meanwhile I suggest Mr. Cohn investigate the many government-instigated restrictions that cause farmers to wonder why we should keep working as farmers.
Charles Hooker, East Garafraxa