Watching the controversy over the cancelling of the documentary “Tapped” has been both interesting and frustrating. I have had advice from several quarters not to wade in because the decision to co-sponsor the Water Conservation Documentary Nights and to cancel this particular film was a decision of the Administration and not Council. That it will all blow over.
This feels too politically expedient. It misses an opportunity to learn from the incident and to bring greater clarity to the roles of citizens and stakeholders in local government decision making. And I fear it will only add to cynicism about local government and the role of municipal employees.
This is what I know and/or have learned:
- I received a letter from Nestle expressing their “disappointment about City of Guelph Water Services co-sponsoring the documentary Tapped as part of Water Conservation Documentary Nights”.
- I wasn’t surprised to learn Water Services were partnering with the Wellington Water Watchers on a film series on water conservation. We have partnered with them in the past to achieve mutual goals.
- I referred the correspondence to staff for the necessary background for a response.
- Staff had not viewed the documentary before agreeing to its co-sponsorship.
- The concerns expressed by Nestle prompted the Manager of Water Services to view the documentary.
- After viewing the documentary, the Manager made a decision that, professionally, the City of Guelph Water Services could not support co-sponsoring the documentary.
- The film was cancelled.
- I provided a response to Nestle that included the decision of the Manager.
- Members of the community believe that Nestle successfully pressured the City of Guelph not to show the film.
This is what I believe:
About the decision to cancel the documentary
- As co-sponsors, both the Wellington Water Watchers and Water Services have the right to agree to the films that would be shown as part of the Water Conservation Documentary Nights.
- Had Water Services viewed the documentary in advance, they would have been well within their rights to have not co-sponsored the showing of Tapped for professional reasons.
- Water Services consistently demonstrates a high level of technical and professional integrity.
- Water Services does have professional concerns about the documentary.
- The time for Water Services expressing their professional concerns, by not showing the film, had passed.
- Given the sequence of events, maintaining the trust of citizens and community stakeholders should have taken priority and a different resolution found.
- More people will view the film given the controversy and attend the screening tomorrow night by the Council of Canadians.
About the letter from Nestle
- Nestle has a right to express their concerns about the documentary’s claims.
- Nestle has a right to express the ways in which they believe their company brings value to the local community and the local economy.
- Nestle did not ask the City of Guelph, through my office, to cancel the documentary.
- I personally feel Nestle was attempting to exert pressure on the City of Guelph by including the following paragraph in their correspondence: “Given that we are occasionally sought out by national and international business concerns to offer our perspective on Canada, Ontario and Guelph as places to invest, I would appreciate receiving your guidance about how we should respond to any future outreach by commercial interests regarding Guelph’s suitability as a place to invest.”
This is what I hope:
- People will view the documentary, listen to Nestle’s concerns, seek out additional information, and come to their own conclusions.
- The good work of our Water Services in promoting municipal water and of Solid Waste Services in reducing waste is not forgotten. Learn more at I Love Guelph Tap Water
- People will choose Guelph tap water.
Why choose tap water?
- Tap water is the environmentally friendly, socially conscious, affordable, healthy and delicious choice.
- Guelph’s drinking water is tested over 20,000 times a year to make sure it is safe from the well to your tap.
- Guelph has some of the best drinking water in the world, sourced in our own backyard and delivered right to our homes!