A request to have a question regarding fluoride in Owen Sound’s drinking water on the municipal election ballot has been denied.
The city announced Friday that a petition requesting that the ballot for the 2018 municipal election include a question about the removal of fluoride from the city’s drinking water did not meet a requirement that it contain 10 per cent of electors in the city.
Sandra Barker, a member of the group that had gathered the signatures and submitted the petition, said she was disappointed with the city’s finding and was left confused as to how they didn’t get the required signatures.
“We did everything we possibly could to make sure,” Barker said. “The proportions don’t make any sense.”
In the news release issued on Friday it stated that a petition had been submitted to clerk Briana Bloomfield prior to the May 1 deadline.
In accordance with the Fluoridation Act, the petition must be signed by at least 10 per cent of electors in the municipality and certified as sufficient by the clerk.
The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation provided Bloomfield with current elector information for Owen Sound, in order to certify each name. With the current number of electors in Owen Sound pegged at 15,884, the petition would require the signatures of 1,589.
Barker said she had been told by city officials that more than 900 signatures from their petition had to be removed for various reasons.
The original petition had over 2,200 signatures, but Barker herself went through and eliminated those that she felt wouldn’t qualify, such as duplicates, those who lived outside the city and those who left details out such as their address. She said they were careful when going door-to-door to ensure that those signing the petition were of voting age and were eligible to vote in the city.
That still left her with close to 2,100 signatures, about 600 more than were required. With the 900 the city removed, they ended up being about 275 short of the required 1,589.
Barker said she trusts Bloomfield, but feels there must be a problem somewhere. Bloomfield could not immediately be reached for comment.
In the news release from the city it said the clerk could not certify the petition as it did not meet the 10 per cent requirement.
“The petition had the required number of names but many were disqualified as duplicates, non-residents, incomplete or illegible submissions, individuals with unconfirmed citizenship or unconfirmed birth dates and names not found,” it said in the news release. “The City Clerk is unable to accept further submissions because the May 1, 2018 deadline has passed.”
The city Owen Sound began adding fluoride to its water supply in 1965.
Since a majority of city electors — 59.94 per cent — voted in favour of the city continuing the practice in a 1997 referendum, Ontario law says another plebiscite that produces the opposite result is required before it can end.
City council put the question on the ballot again in the last municipal election in 2014.
Electors upheld the 1997 decision, with 55.59 per cent of voters saying the city should not discontinue the practice.
The current council did not vote before a March 1 deadline to hold another plebiscite during the upcoming Oct. 22 municipal election.
The only other way to hold the referendum was through a petition. Had the petition been successful, a plebiscite held and more than 50 per cent of votes supporting the discontinuation of fluoridation, the city would have to pass a bylaw to remove fluoride from the city’s water supply.
Owen Sound is the only municipality in Grey-Bruce that adds fluoride to its water. In some communities, particularly in western Bruce County, fluoride occurs naturally in the water people drink.
Water fluoridation is a contentious issue.
The Grey Bruce Health Unit says fluoride additives meet standards for quality and purity before being added to water at recommended levels.
It says numerous studies have demonstrated that low levels of fluoride in drinking water can reduce cavities by 20 to 60 percent, while having no other harmful effects.
After the 2014 plebiscite, public health said municipal water fluoridation benefits everyone, in particular the most vulnerable like children and seniors who may not have the best dental care.
Water fluoridation is supported by many national and international organizations. Health Canada, for example, says is has proven to be a safe, effective and equitable way to prevent and reduce tooth decay.
Opponents of community water fluoridation, meanwhile, say it is an outdated, ineffective practice that is not safe, poses a threat to human health and should not be forced on people.
Barker said Owen Sound adds hydrofluorosilicic acid to its drinking water, but has no control over how much each individual ingests. Fluoride is a neurotoxin, she said, that affects different people in different ways.
Her concerns about fluoride in drinking water stem from her late husband Ken’s diagnosis of multiple system atrophy caused by fluoride toxicity.
She said they moved often throughout their lives and whenever they resided in a community that added fluoride to its water, it would have adverse effects on his health. When they moved somewhere where fluoride wasn’t added to the water his health would improve.
Since they started collecting names for the petition over a year ago, they had many who were against signing it, but also many who shared their concerns.
“I am so amazed at the concern people have in this town over this subject,” said Barker. “There are people who I have spoken to today who are quite alarmed with the situation.”
Barker isn’t sure what their next step but she feels her group has to do something.
“There must be some way of challenging it,” Barker said. “We are trying to find that out.”
*Original article online at http://www.owensoundsuntimes.com/2018/05/20/fluoride-question-to-be-left-off-ballot