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Great Lakes Article:

Water bottlers upset with Quebec tax grab
Industry boiling after province proposes royalty payments of up to $15 million a year

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.

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