Some political issues start out looking very odd and ambiguous, and one wonders where they are headed.
That was the case in the early 1980s when then councillor Jack Layton (now head of the New Democratic Party) asked Toronto city council to ban smoking in elevators as the confined space meant you couldn’t avoid smoke. Those opposed to the proposal argued individuals had a God-given right to smoke and if we banned smoking in elevators then American tourists would stop coming to our city.
You can see where this small initiative led. Smoking is now banned in public places in most of Canada and few seem to think that’s a problem. Now Toronto has decided to ban the sale of bottled water in city facilities. Does this strange and odd proposal have the same grand future as banning smoking in elevators?
Water from Toronto taps is tasty, drinkable and virtually free. So why, say those who favour the ban, should we help those who want to privatize water when it is (and should be) free? About one-third of all bottled water is reprocessed tap water anyway. (That’s what the label on Dasani says, and there are other examples.)
The number of bottled water bottles used annually in North America is in the billions, and creating those bottles uses energy and many barrels of oil. Only a quarter of these bottles get recycled. Instead of creating waste, we should encourage more public fountains where people can drink for free and fill up reusable containers.
Toronto is not the only city to pass this resolution — other cities in Ontario have joined in the campaign lead by the Polaris Institute, a public interest group. Will the campaign have legs and if, so, where will it go?
– John Sewell is a former mayor of Toronto
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