CUPE and its Newfoundland and Labrador allies have won a victory for public water. Bottled water will no longer be on tap at city hall and municipal functions in St. John’s, after city council passed a policy banning the expensive eco-nuisance earlier this week.
In February, Oxfam Canada sent the St. John’s mayor and councilors a letter urging a bottled water ban on behalf of CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador, the local Council of Canadians and Sierra Club chapters and a half-dozen other campus and community groups. The letter triggered a request for city staff to draft a bottled water policy.
The local water activists argued that using bottled water helps pave the way for privatization. In their letter to council, they said “[p]roviding bottled water at official functions also undermines confidence in municipal water, sending the incorrect message that bottled water is somehow safer or more regulated than what comes out of the taps in our community…What better way to show that our tap water is safe and clean than to have city officials drink it at city functions?”
As the Council of Canadians and Polaris Institute point out, bottled water is losing steam in Canada. London and Kitchener city councils are looking at ways to kick the bottle and promote public water. Nelson, BC, has taken that step, and a growing number of school boards are moving in the same direction.
The St. John’s Telegram has published a letter from Oxfam Canada campaigns coordinator Bill Hynd and Wayne Lucas, CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador president, congratulating city council and celebrating publicly delivered water services.