Nestlé, township officials refute accusations of ‘back door deal’ for proposed Middlebrook well
by Mike Robinson
ELORA - Local activists are accusing Nestlé Waters Canada of a “scheme” to “bypass” a provincial moratorium and negotiate a “back door deal” with Centre Wellington for its proposed Middlebrook well near Elora.
But officials with both the company and the township are strenuously refuting those accusations.
“Simply put, nothing is going on,” stated Centre Wellington Mayor Kelly Linton.
On Jan. 3 Save Our Water and the Wellington Water Watchers issued a press release announcing “an urgent public meeting to expose the scheme” Nestlé is proposing to Centre Wellington."
The meeting is set for Jan. 11 at 7pm at the Elora Legion.
“Speakers will update the audience on what they can do to stop Nestlé’s actions to bypass the moratorium and why it is vital to halt their scheme that will jeopardize the local water supply for their own profits,” states the press release.
The statement accuses Nestlé Waters of attempting “a back door deal” with Centre Wellington “that would in effect privatize the community’s water supply.”
Save Our Water spokesperson Donna McCaw says it is “vital” for people to attend the meeting.
“Water is a public trust. Water is for life, not for profit. We have seen what happens in other jurisdictions and we are saying ‘no’ to Nestlé in Ontario,” McCaw stated.
Mike Nagy of Wellington Water Watchers stated in the press release that, “If closed door talks between Nestlé and [the township] are happening we demand that they be stopped immediately as we do not want any deal with Nestlé.”
Reached for comment, Linton rejected any claims of a possible deal with the company.
“While it seems that some find some enjoyment in creating a stir about nothing, there have been no discussions and there will be no back door deals. Period,” Linton wrote in an email.
“Consistent with our approach from day one, we will continue to be open and transparent about our actions on this file.”
A statement from Nestlé Waters’ director of corporate affairs Jennifer Kerr stresses the company respects the moratorium on new and expanded water bottling permits that was enacted by the Ontario government.
“We support the approach the government is currently taking to understand and set in place science-based regulations that will sustain the shared water resources and environment that support the prosperity of our local communities and the province,” Kerr stated.
“On Dec. 12, in an open and public forum, Nestlé Waters Canada was provided an opportunity to discuss potential options and to determine the township’s interests in the Middlebrook water source.
“We believe an open dialogue is the best way to collaborate in a manner that respects the interests of all stakeholders and encourage people to continue to submit their comments and stay involved in the process.”
In the email she adds, “We have not had any further discussions with the mayor or council members since our presentation, though we have invited them to our bi-weekly public office hours in the Elora office, which will continue throughout the year.”
On Dec. 12 Nestlé Waters Canada officials proposed a “community partnership” to Centre Wellington council regarding the proposed Middlebrook well west of Elora.
Nestlé Waters’ natural resource manager Andreanne Simard spoke to council about a possible partnership, but few details were provided and township officials seemed wary of any deal with the company.
On Jan. 3 Linton stated, “Centre Wellington’s focus right now is on determining our own water requirements.
“In November, our council approved the Long-Term Water Supply Master Plan funding in the capital budget to be completed by December 2018, and currently the Grand River Conservation Area’s Scoped Tier 3 Study is underway and to be completed by March 2018.
“Both of these projects will provide us with a better understanding on our long-term water needs.”
January 6, 2017