Price of water 'sold' to Nestlé should stay the same or face consequences: former MLA

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A former MLA and anti-bulk water export campaigner Judi Tyabji said raising the price of B.C. groundwater “sold” to Nestlé could have dire consequences.

Her statement on Facebook was provoked by reports of a petition that is calling for the provincial government to up the price of the water, which is currently $2.25 per million litres.

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SEE ALSO: B.C. water for sale? Outrage sparked over selling groundwater to Nestlé

She claims it isn’t actually being sold as a commodity, and that Nestlé pays the same fee for water that everyone else does. She says making the company pay for water is potentially harmful.

“Nestle is on the record saying they will pay a fair price and in fact want the province to do an inventory of its fresh water. Understand this as you sign the petition DEMANDING that the province charge Nestle for water: you are lobbying our government to turn our water into a commodity for sale. That’s what you are doing when you post articles and petitions. You will make Nestle VERY happy if you succeed, because then we can NEVER turn off the taps due to the international trade deals in place,” she said in her Facebook post.

In an interview with Vancity Buzz, Tyabji said Nestlé is under the same water restrictions that everyone else in B.C. is, but if water were to be made into a commodity by raising the fees, they might be exempt from those rules – even when drought-like conditions persist throughout the province.

“For an example, in Northern Vancouver Island, they’re at level four water restrictions. So if Nestle was perched on top of one of their aquifers, everyone is at level four except Nestle,” Tyabji said.

“We could not say to them ‘you have to turn down your water consumption’ – they’d say no, because under the free trade agreement, you have to continue to deliver at whatever our consumption levels are, and we would not have any recourse because that’s what the government agreed to at the time. So the farm next door would be going dry.”

She adds this could open up Nestlé to legal recourses that might be damaging to the province.

“Even worse, if the water ran out, they could sue us for effectively breaching the contract because they couldn’t deliver the water to their consumers.”

“If Nestlé were to pay fair market value for our water, we actually wouldn’t be able to turn off the tap.”

The petition Tyabji is referring to has garnered more than 220,000 signatures.

Read her full statement from Facebook below:

I have to make a statement about the growing hysteria around BC’s laws on water, which terrifies me because the campaign is wrong. Do NOT demand that the province charge Nestle money, unless you want to open the door to massive water sales in BC. Please read my full statement very carefully because water is more important than politics. Context: I have been campaigning against bulk water exports since the late 1980s, arguing against the Free Trade Agreement, and later NAFTA, which defined water as a commodity eligible for export, and contained clauses locking us into sustained export levels regardless of our domestic need. Recent news stories alleging that the BC government is ‘giving away’ our water to Nestle and stating that the government should be ‘charging a fair price’ for it are dangerous. Currently, Nestle pays the same fees that everyone else pays for access to water. Nestle is on the record saying they will pay a fair price and in fact want the province to do an inventory of its fresh water. Understand this as you sign the petition DEMANDING that the province charge Nestle for water: you are lobbying our government to turn our water into a commodity for sale. That’s what you are doing when you post articles and petitions. You will make Nestle VERY happy if you succeed, because then we can NEVER turn off the taps due to the international trade deals in place.

Do NOT sign the petition do NOT ask that our water become a commodity. When Environment Minister Mary Polak says “We don’t sell water. We charge administration fees for the management of that resource” she is trying to tell us this – we are NOT selling it. And that is the ONLY way we can protect it. By NOT selling it. Honestly, this campaign terrifies me. Every headline I have read is misleading and intended to make you angry and lobby for something very bad. Please share.

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Lauren Sundstrom Lauren is a Staff Writer and Projects Assistant at Vancity Buzz. She is a graduate of BCIT's Broadcast and Online Journalism program. She loves reporting on breaking news and lifestyle content. If you feel like you have a story that needs to be told, fire her a tweet.
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