Posted: April 23, 2009

Apr 22, 2009 04:30 AM
John Spears

It’s hard to kick the bottle, the City of Toronto is discovering – especially when the bottle is made of plastic, and contains plain water.

Last December, city council voted to ban bottled water from City Hall and other civic centres.

But yesterday, as Scarborough community council met in Scarborough Civic Centre, councillors in the cafeteria were confronted with a stand-alone rack containing dozens of plastic bottles of water.

Those who didn’t want to poke their heads into the cafeteria could throw a few coins into the vending machine just outside the door, where water was also on sale in plastic bottles.

Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker was gobsmacked. As chair of the city’s works committee, he had spearheaded the drive to ban bottled water.

“They shouldn’t be here. Somebody made a mistake somewhere,” said De Baeremaeker. “It’s hard for me to be saying you should be drinking a glass of good, clean city tap water when we’ve got this on display.”

De Baeremaeker said the city’s size may be the reason policy is being so blatantly flouted in a prominent civic centre. “I guess when you work in a corporation with 50,000 employees … somebody, somewhere, didn’t communicate with the private-sector contractor who runs the cafeteria.”

It took months to root bottled water out of City Hall itself, as the contractor who supplies the building’s vending machines continued to fill them with bottled water. City staff eventually resorted to sticking hockey tape over the buttons used to select bottled water until the supplier relented.

De Baeremaeker said he’ll remind staff to make sure policy is carried out in civic centres.