The association representing 35 companies that bottle
water in Quebec is alarmed at a proposal by Environment
Minister André Boisclair to charge them royalties of
as much as $15 million a year.
Daniel Colpron, spokesman for the Association des Embouteilleurs
de l'Eau du Québec, said yesterday that total annual
sales of Quebec's bottled-water industry are $150 million.
"As far as we are concerned, this is wrong," Colpron
said in a telephone interview. While Quebec is proposing
a 10-per-cent water royalty, in France, which already
has water royalties, bottlers are charged .003 of a
centime (0.01 of a franc) per litre for the water they
bottle, an infinitesimal amount, he said.
Colpron added that Quebec bottlers use about 450 million
litres of water a year, or about one per cent of the
total water consumed in the province.
Colpron said the brewery sector, distilleries, pisciculture
and industrial users consume much more water in a year
than the bottled-water industry, but the bottled-water
sector seems to be more visible.
Colpron was among invited guests Tuesday when Boisclair
announced Quebec would charge royalties on all water
users in the province. "If all users are affected, we
agree," he said.
Boisclair told reporters later he planned to charge
Quebec water bottlers between $10 million and $15 million
a year in royalties, starting next year, and would levy
royalties - on both the use of water and the contamination
of water - later.
None of the money raised through the royalties would
be used to pay the $3-billion bill for the infrastructure
program the minister envisages to clean up Quebec rivers,
to ensure the quality of drinking water and to repair
municipal waterworks, which now leak 40 per cent of
the water pumped through them.
Instead, the minister wants to use the royalties for
a fund that would pay for water-related research projects
and participation by Quebec delegations in international
conferences on water quality.