There’s a dental health urgency for council to approve the plebiscite’s non-binding results, said Richard Pootmans, who’s returning to council in Ward 6 after a one-term hiatus.
“The harm and infections it’s causing to youth and those in dire poverty, and the health effects they’ll have in life can’t be ignored,” said Pootmans.
“(It should come to council) certainly before Christmas . . . it would frustrate Calgarians if it was not taken seriously, and not to respect the will of the people would be outrageous.”
The plebiscite numbers sent a message to councillors that they shouldn’t dither on implementing the results, said Ward 8 Coun.-elect Courtney Walcott .
One of those who spearheaded the pro-fluoride side of the debate said she fully expects council to take swift action to abide with the results of the plebiscite.
“City councillors will be glad to move this matter along because it gives them the opportunity to demonstrate their responsiveness,” said Dr. Juliet Guichon with the group Fluoride Yes!
But she added: “We won’t take anything for granted.”
Fluoridation opponents have said they’ll press the new city council to reject the plebiscite results, contending the additive poses health risks exceeding any benefits.
Even if council swiftly ratified the plebiscite results, city officials say it would take 18 to 24 months to make the re-fluoridation of the city’s water supply operational.
Retrofitting the city’s two water treatment plants would cost an estimated $10.1 million, says the city, while the annual operating costs including fluoride supply would be $864,000.
A $30.1-million cost over 20 years would also include $100,000 to $200,000 in yearly maintenance.
“The cost to the health-care system and people’s health would be much larger,” said Pootmans.
According to Alberta Health, every dollar spent on community water fluoridation can save as much as $93 per person in dental treatment costs; the department also notes that fluoridation helps prevent tooth decay.
Calgarians voted against community water fluoridation in plebiscites in 1957, 1961 and 1971. In 1989, the fourth plebiscite on the issue was held and fluoridation of the city’s drinking water was carried out in 1991. The city discontinued water fluoridation in 2011 even though a 1998 plebiscite favoured keeping it.
Carra said he voted in 2011 to remove the additive due partly to the cost of replacing fluoride injection equipment following 20 years of use.
“The injection equipment we had was at the end of its life and the decision to remove it was cost-avoidance,” said Carra, who believes fluoride does have health benefits.
But some councillors also resented what they saw as the province downloading the cost of the health-care measure on the city, he said.
And Carra said he fears bringing back fluoride will blunt the urgency of enacting what he says would be a far more effective way to improve oral health — universally insured dental care.
Walcott agreed full accessibility to that care is preferable, “but until we have that, these are things within our control — (fluoridation) won’t stop me from advocating to the federal government for full dental coverage.”