Council heard this week from 13-year-old Robyn Hamlyn, a Kingston native who’s on a provincewide trek to speak about the Council of Canadians / Canadian Union of Public Employees’ Blue Communities Project. The admirable young woman has taken on this crusade— she visited Mayor Chris Friel over the March break and is asking council to endorse the resolutions included in the project. There are tens of councils across Ontario (keeping in mind there are over 440 municipalities in this province) that have gone whole-hog and become Blue Communities.
The trio of resolutions calls on council to declare its support for access to clean drinking water a human right, banning the sale of bottled water in municipal facilities and at public events and promoting publicly financed, owned and operated water and sewer services.
Number one is an easy, motherhood and apple pie kind of statement. The third, depending on the city, gets tricky too. Ownership of public assets is one thing, but in a heavily regulated post-Walkerton environment, a private operator who costs less may be the better way to go since regardless of operator the regs don’t change.
The bottled-water ban is where things start to get tricky. This is not the first time Brantford council has been asked this question and it has refrained to this point. There are many things about a bottled-water ban that aren’t as easy as they seem (convenience, preference, etc.) and that won’t necessarily change behaviour. I like tap water and while I won’t turn down bottled water if offered, I don’t buy it and live the reusable water-bottle culture where possible.
The city should consider leading by example (Woodstock took this principle a number of years ago) and be the biggest advocate of its tap water, without taking away choice and the opportunity to educate from its facilities and events. Offer only tap water at city hall for meetings. Install bottle-friendly taps/spigots on all water fountains in public facilities. Offer running tap water at community events instead of only having bottled water for sale.
Banning bottled water — for all the right reasons — becomes a nanny state move. People should be educated to why tap water is better and then left to make their own decisions.