In a 3-2 vote during Monday night’s meeting of council, councillors Brigita Gingras and Charlene Martel were outvoted by councillors Rod MacDonald and Riet Wigzell. Mayor Laurier Falldien broke the tie and voted in favour of dropping fluoride from the municipal water supply.
A survey had been sent out during the previous month that asked residents if they wanted the chemical removed or not. The amount of surveys handed in was not enough to determine the population’s wishes.
Gingras said those who didn’t write in their opposition to the chemical must be okay with the fluoridation, adding they would have voiced their opposition. Falldien countered by saying the taxpayers expect the elected officials to make the decisions for them.
“I think a lot of taxpayers do put their trust in us to make the right decision on their behalf,” said Falldien.
Gingras agreed with Falldien that the ratepayers trust council to make the right decision, but they are not in a medical or scientific field to say if fluoride is harmful or not.
During a tense discussion between Gingras and Falldien, she said she put her faith in health professionals and scientists who have studied fluoridation in water and recommend keeping the chemical in.
“Do you have the knowledge to make an informed decision about fluoride?” she asked. “As a councillor, I am struggling with that decision.”
She reiterated that she’d rather have professionals decide rather than themselves or the taxpayers. She said misinformation is being taken from the internet by those wanting to remove the chemical.
“I think that is where the mistake would be. If anything the decision should be made by us if it is going to be made by anybody.”
MacDonald, who favoured of having the fluoride dropped, wanted to wait to see if the provincial government was going to mandate there be fluoride in water, which is something Gingras was also hoping for.
“There is so much going around Ontario right now,” said MacDonald, adding that Cornwall is looking to add fluoride to its water supply.
Falldien said he understood and respected what the two councillors were saying. He also said they would have to upgrade the current equipment regardless of whether the province mandated it or not but added he doesn’t think the province will be successful in mandating fluoride be in drinking water.
“We need to have the backbone to make the decision here tonight,” said Falldien.
MacDonald said he came prepared to vote Monday night to remove it, but added that he wanted to wait for information from the province.
“If we do remove fluoride what is the worst things that happen?” asked Falldien. “Cavities among our children raise by 10% to 12%?”
He is referring to the situation in Calgary where dentists saw a rise in cavities in children after fluoride was removed from the water supply in 2011.
“What if fluoride is causing all this other stuff?” he continued. “What if we have the ability right now to make that change?”
Gingras agreed that in extreme amounts, fluoride is dangerous, but continued by saying anything could be if done in excess.
“We have to absolutely look towards our health professionals Mr. Chair and whatever endorsements they have I believe I will always endorse their recommendations,” she said.
MacDonald said he wanted to see some more data from other municipalities, but Falldien countered by saying the information has been provided.
“I just don’t feel comfortable taking it out and in five years from now we find out we made a mistake,” MacDonald said. “I got to live in this town.”
He pointed out while Falldien commented that the taxpayers trust them to make this decision, there are those who do not put their faith in council to make the right decision for them.
Falldien said if they are going to table the motion, a deadline needs to be set.
“I don’t want us to drag our butts and people say ‘they don’t have the guts to make the decision,’” Falldien said.
“Then let’s make the decision Mr. Chair,” said Gingras. “I am alright in making a decision tonight. I don’t want you to think I am a spineless jellyfish.”
After discussion, council opted for a recorded vote.
The bylaw to remove fluoride out of the township water was passed in front of two taxpayers.