Nestle complains to Mayor and city cancels film

October 6th, 2012

Nestlé letter to mayor over film causes disbelief

Re: Nestlé complains, city cancels film — Oct.2

An exchange of letters between Nestlé Waters Canada and the City of Guelph has just come to light and I am in a state of disbelief.

The city chose to participate in a showing of a documentary film titled Tapped. In that the film was less than flattering with respect to the bottled water industry, Nestlé raised its objections in a strongly worded letter on Sept. 7 to Mayor Karen Farbridge. The city capitulated, and withdrew its support of the series.

In his letter, Nestlé representative John Challinor takes a very heavy-handed approach when he says: “Should the city decide to continue to forge ahead with supporting the showing of this or any other documentary now or in the future, consideration should be given to permitting all sides of the issue in question to be presented beforehand.”

He says Nestlé is occasionally sought out by national and international business concerns to offer its perspective on Canada, Ontario and Guelph as places to invest, and tells Farbridge, “I would appreciate receiving your guidance about how we should respond to any further outreach by commercial interests regarding Guelph’s suitability as a place to invest.”

All of this after having made it clear in the very first paragraph of his letter that while “we fully respect the right of filmmakers, environmental activists and the general public to express their views about our business, we expect all levels of government to take a learned, well-researched and even-handed approach to all matters that come before them, regardless of their nature.”

I guess this is supposed to be fair warning to all levels of government: “Best check with Nestlé first,” or put another way: “If it is OK with Mr. Challinor, it is OK by me.”

With this kind of clout, small wonder Nestlé’s permit to take water was renewed by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.

Nick Green, Orton

Mayor persuaded to cancel film by bad argument

Re: Nestlé complains, city cancels film — Oct. 2

The story reads that John Challinor, director of corporate affairs for Aberfoyle-based Nestlé Waters Canada, “also pointed out that Nestlé Waters Canada employs about 90 local residents at the plant, spends locally for services and materials, donates to local charities, provides technical assistance to Guelph Water Services, has helped Guelph with its plastics recycling marketing activities, and has offered to fund public recycling programs in Guelph facilities at the company’s expense.”

The fact that Nestlé provides benefits to the community has nothing at all to do with whether or not bottled water is a good thing.

Imperial Tobacco provided benefits to the community when it was located in Guelph. Asbestos mining produced benefits to its community in Quebec. It’s tough to argue that either tobacco or asbestos are good things because of that.

Water bottling is a controversial activity, and it provides benefits to Nestlé. Whatever benefits are provided to the community are the costs of doing business to Nestlé, and I presume they are more than offset by the benefits Nestlé gains by bottling water in Aberfoyle.

It is disturbing that Nestlé can prevent a documentary film from being shown. It bothers me that Mayor Karen Farbridge, who one would expect to support free expression, chose not to do so. It bothers me even more that she was persuaded by a bad argument.

Alan Belk

Posted in Latest News, Water | Comments (1)

One Response to “Nestle complains to Mayor and city cancels film”

  1. Karen Farbridge Says:

    This was not a decision of my office or Guelph City Council. It was a decision of the Administration – as was it their decision to partner on the film series in the first place. Our staff have a strong record of promoting municipal water, providing municipal water at festivals, partnering with the Wellington Water Watchers and working to make our facilities bottle water free. I am pleased to see the Council of Canadians, along with others, is making this film available to the community so they can come to their own conclusions on its content. Sincerely, Mayor Karen Farbridge. P.S. perhaps more people will see the film with the attention it has received.

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