Parksville council supported part of a proposed resolution in support of water rights as a step to becoming a certified Blue Community.
The resolution affirms that access to clean water is essential to human life and public operation is “effective, efficient, transparent and accountable to the public,” therefore the city will support the Union of B.C. Municipalities and Federation of Canadian Municipalities in lobbying senior levels of government to include the access to water as a fundamental human right.
It concludes, “The city promotes and supports public ownership and operation of our domestic water supply, water treatment and wastewater treatment services in our community.”
Mayor Chris Burger said the last line is “the single most important thing we can do,” in light of the constant pressure to privatize water utilities.
The resolution didn’t include a third point requested by the Vancouver Island Water Watch Coalition promoting the Blue Communities program, calling for a ban on the sale of bottled water in city facilities and city sponsored events.
There are currently no vending machines in city facilities.
Councillor Marc Lefebvre proposed an amendment to add bottle filling facilities in Community Park, put a statement on the city’s website and ban vending machines.
“The commodification of water is going to be one of the biggest threats to our country,” he said, sparking debate.
Coun. Al Greir said he was disturbed by the idea of the city trying to interfere with private enterprise.
“We live in a democratic and free enterprise system, I don’t worry about corporations gouging us,” he said. “If people don’t want to buy it, they don’t buy it.”
Coun. Carrie Powell-Davidson agreed, pointing out she supports the right to water, but doesn’t feel the city should be regulating bottled water.
The amendment failed by a narrow 3-4 vote, but council unanimously supported the original resolution.
During question period, Charna Macfie, president of the Parksville Residents Association, who first brought the proposal to council asked why they are asking higher levels of government to affirm water as a human right, while not doing it themselves.
Burger didn’t directly respond but later clarified to The News that he believes sending a note to Ottawa from Parksville would be less effective than joining forces with other municipalities to get the message heard.
It is unclear whether Parksville can formally be called a Blue Community without banning bottled water, though it was pointed out other communities are.