Thursday, March 3, 2011

Anger Over Water and the Arts

The Wonders of Water Anger

It almost slipped by them, but the Wellington Water Watchers mobilized quickly and used Facebook to get public reaction and outrage to the possible approval of a 10-year contract extension for Nestle Waters in Aberfoyle. The new contract could be approved by the Province of Ontario as early as March 5th, and if allowed would permit Nestle to take 3.6 million litres of water per day from the Grand River watershed.

“This is far too long and way too much,” states Mike Nagy, former Green Party candidate and board member for WWW. “In fact, there are many aspects of this proposed NestlĂ©-Ministry of Environment agreement that should raise red flags for all Guelph-area citizens who care about water issues.”

And care they do. As soon as WWW changed the name of their Facebook group to “Oppose Nestle Waters Canada's ‘Permit to take Water’ Renewal Bid!” a tidal of wave of member reaction was posted to the site. “The water Nestle pays $5,000 for in Aberfoyle would cost $5 million in New Jersey,” said former Mayoral candidate and local provocateur Ray Mitchell. “Who is getting paid off, the Provincial gov't. or Guelph City Hall?” Michael Wright, another poster on the site, was even more curt. “Our water is not for sale - F*ck off Nestle.”

Emotions concerning Guelph’s water and the private corporations that want access to it have always been high. In 2007, Wellington Water Watchers was formed to combat Nestle’s previous contract renewal for five years at 3.6 million litres per day. After nearly a year of back and forth, the Ministry of the Environment followed direction from Guelph City Council and renewed the contract for only two years, but the litre per diem mark remained at 3.6 million.

“At the very most, the maximum volume of water allowed in any new NestlĂ© agreement should be no more than the maximum taken in 2010, which was 1.6 million litres per day,” Nagy says. “And then it should be reduced by at least 1.56 percent per year after that, consistent with Ontario’s initiatives on sustainable water use.”

The period for public comment about the renewal closes today, and a decision could be made about the renewal as early as March 5th. To learn more about WWW’s objections to the permit and find out how you can help their cause, go to

…Speaking of Negative Reactions

Last Tuesday was the public’s chance for input into the 2011 operating and capital budgets, and wouldn’t you know it, a lot of that reaction was of the negative variety towards transit’s service cuts and fee hike. The sum and total of the (stated) public reaction can be found on my blog at, but the point is, it wasn’t all about transit.

Yes Virgina, the people of Guelph had other things on their minds about their city and how their local government spends money. For instance, Anastasia Ziprick spoke to council on behalf of several major arts festivals including the Guelph Jazz Festival, the Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival and Hillside, remarking about how rental fees on the River Run Centre need to be lowered. Ziprick said that it’s hard to deal with mounting expenses and if fees at the River Run’s Co-operators Hall aren’t reduced, then the Jazz Festival may have to relocate.

Sandy Ferguson-Escott spoke next on behalf of the Guelph-Non Profit Housing Committee. She was looking for tax relief on the GNPHC’s development on Paisley Road. The problem for GNPHC is that they got a bad deal when the project was developed in 2005, which prevents them from seeking additional revenue by transferring it over from one of their other eight sites. Without the tax relief, Ferguson-Escott said, there won’t be enough money to pay for the bills, and the project will be effectively bankrupt.

On another subject, Konnie Peet, Executive Director of the Guelph Community Health Centre on behalf of the Wellington-Guelph Drug Strategy Committee, asked for $30,000 in new funding from the City and the County of Wellington in order to hire a co-ordinator and help fund overhead costs. This money would be an annual budget line item to help the WGDDSC with its outreach, treatment, harm reduction and prevention programs.

Before the end of the night, Guelph Chamber of Commerce President Lloyd Longfield took the floor to state his concerns about the City’s hiring of 87 Full-Time Equivalent positions saying that most businesses are continuing to act with an abundance of caution in these early stages of economic recovery. He also added that as much as he wants the City to help foster industrial and commercial development, he also wanted them to keep in mind residential growth, as many of the businesses he works with are telling him that they’re looking outside the city limits for skilled, and professional workers.

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