Calgary provides drinking water to the nearby municipalities of Airdrie, Chestermere and Strathmore, as well as parts of Tsuut’ina Nation, Foothills County and Rocky View County. But only city residents are able to weigh in on the Monday vote.
Airdrie manager of community infrastructure Lorne Stevens explained his municipality has an agreement to purchase water from Calgary.
“The water that is provided to Airdrie is the same water that’s in Calgary’s system,” Stevens said.
“There was additional fluoride present here for about 20 years, and that was between 1991 and 2011 when Calgary discontinued the addition of fluoride into their water supply. We have had fluoridated water here before and we’ll be waiting to see what the new Calgary council is considering on Monday and beyond.”
In a statement, the City of Calgary noted city council cannot hold a referendum of residents in another municipality.
“We are encouraging residents of these municipalities, who wish to share their views on fluoridation, to contact their municipality and elected officials,” the city said.
The city reiterated it would only take the next steps in reintroducing fluoride to the water supply at council’s direction, as Monday’s plebiscite is non-binding. The majority of city council candidates who have responded to Postmedia surveys on election issues say they plan to respect the results of the plebiscite.
Calgary has a lengthy history with water fluoridation, as Monday’s vote will be the seventh time city residents cast ballots on the issue . Calgarians voted in favour of fluoridation in 1989 and 1998, but councillors opted to remove the additive in 2011. The most recent polling suggests 54 per cent of Calgarians are in favour of reintroducing fluoride, while 32 per cent are opposed and 14 per cent are unsure.
Stevens said Airdrie’s contract with Calgary specifies the water must meet Health Canada’s drinking water guidelines, which say the optimal water fluoridation level is 0.7 milligrams per litre. Small amounts of naturally occurring fluoride are already present in Calgary’s drinking water, clocking in at between 0.1 and 0.4 mg/L.
The topic has lead to some confusion among those who live in Airdrie.
“We’ve received questions and concerns from our residents,” Stevens said. “But I’m mindful that Calgary doesn’t issue a plebiscite for the region. They’re obviously asking their residents inside their municipal jurisdiction on their thoughts.”
Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services stated in an official position statement they support community water fluoridation, saying it “offers significant benefits with very low risk.”
Both sides of the debate have run spirited campaigns, with the pro-fluoride Fluoride Yes! and anti-fluoride Safe Water Calgary groups clashing during the run-up to the plebiscite.