Barring some legal loophole, it seems fluoridation is here to stay — at least for the foreseeable future.
In order to legally remove fluoride from the water, a majority of municipalities (four out of six) have to vote against fluoridation.
At this point, Lambton Shores, Point Edward and Warwick have voted to keep fluoride in the water. St. Clair Township has voted to remove it, and Sarnia and Plympton-Wyoming are undecided.
However, even if both undecided councils vote against fluoridation, the vote would still end in a 3-3 tie.
And a tie isn’t enough to remove fluoride from the water supply, said Coun. Dave Boushy.
“As far as the legality of it goes, the fluoride is going to stay,” he said. “Legally, you need a majority (to) remove it.”
Sarnia City Council is planning to vote on the issue on June 24, but Boushy said that whatever they decide, it will not change the outcome.
“It’s not going to make any difference,” Boushy said. “City council is going to have this big debate on June 24, and it’s not going to mean anything.”
But Coun. Mike Kelch said that the vote and the debate are still important in and of themselves.
“Even though the outcome is a fait accompli, we (still) need to get it on the record,” he said. “I believe that there’s a significant number of people in the City of Sarnia who want the fluoridation process stopped. So I think the debate needs to happen.”
Debate on the issue reignited when the Lambton Area Water Supply System (LAWSS) put forward a report asking for input from its six member municipalities before replacing its $300,000 fluoride system. The renewed debate led to the six municipalities voting on the issue.
There has been some controversy over the voting system, which provides each municipality with only one vote, regardless of their population.
In other circumstances, the LAWSS has used a weighted voting system, which allows Sarnia five votes, St. Clair two votes, and the other municipalities one.
Mayor Mike Bradley said that the LAWSS did not use a weighted voting system in this case because of legalities set forth in the Fluoridation Act.
“The LAWSS got a legal opinion that said it shouldn’t be a weighted vote,” Bradley said. “The way it’s set up (now), the vote in Point Edward is equal to the one in Sarnia, even though we take almost 70 percent of the water.”
Kelch said that the voting system was not well thought-out, but nothing can be done about it at this point.
“I’m disappointed that small communities can tell the largest community in the water system what they’re going to do (regarding) additives in their water, but that is the system as it’s set up, and I don’t agree with it, but I can’t really do anything to change it at this point,” he said.
The possibility of a plebiscite, or putting the issue to a public vote, has been brought up by Bradley in council.
“(Fluoridation) was brought in by a public vote (or) plebiscite,” he said. “I believe that (whether) it’s going to be retained or taken out, it should be decided by the public.”
But holding a plebiscite is not a simple matter.
“We would need all of the municipalities to cooperate and put it on the ballot,” Bradley said.
And even a plebiscite may not put the issue to rest.
“Regardless of what happens, there’s always going to be this conflict,” Boushy said. “(This) is dividing the communities in Lambton County against each other.”
Kelch agrees that despite the municipalities vote, the fluoridation debate is far from over.
“There will be future discussions on this,” Kelch said. “I don’t think the issue goes away. It’ll be back.”