Fluoride Action Network

London: Coun. Stephen Orser wants fluoridation on ballot in 2014

Source: The London Free Press | Psst. Want a vote on tax freezes? | By Chip Martin
Posted on August 22nd, 2012
Location: Canada, Ontario

Want a direct say on more property tax freezes in London? Coun. Stephen Orser has a plan to let voters do just that.

The east-end councillor wants a plebiscite added to the next municipal ballot in 2014 that asks three questions to provide “direct democracy” and guide politicians.

Orser will ask city council’s finance and administration committee to put three questions to voters in the next election:

  • Should the city continue a 0% tax increase for the next four years?
  • Should the city fluoridate your municipal water?
  • Should the city council jobs become full-time?

Whether or not the city should freeze taxes is almost certain to be a key issue, if not the overriding one, in the next campaign, even without a ballot-box question. That’s because by then the city will have gone at least two and possibly more years without raising taxes — Mayor Joe Fontana’s centrepiece vow in the last election.

But Orser, the maverick Ward 4 councillor, says all three questions are top-of-mind for Londoners — and they deserve a chance to express their opinions.

“This is not about Stephen Orser,” he said, “this is about democracy.”

“If politicians say no to this, voters should say no to them,” he argued.

He noted when fluoridation was placed on the 2010 ballot in Waterloo, voter turnout soared by about 12% and prompted the city to quit flouridating its water.

Orser has been a strong opponent of fluoride and equally strong proponent of tax freezes and full-time jobs for council members.

“This is a chance to let voters decide,” he said. “This is a much more fair way to do it. These are the issues people are concerned about.”

The tax freeze issue has divided council, with a bare majority supporting a tax freeze target for next year’s budget talks. And while fluoride opponents are in the minority, they’ve been picking up supporters, among them Coun. Joni Baechler.

Orser uses any and all chances to campaign for full-time pay for councillors, arguing it’s a full-time job. He also remains a proponent of allowing Londoners to keep backyard chickens, but opted not to put that question to voters.

His plan for the three questions will be considered at the Sept. 4 meeting of council’s finance and administration committee, where he’s seeking delegation status — what groups appearing before council get — to promote it.

In his letter to the committee, he said putting those questions to voters and getting answers “will give the new council clear instruction on the intent and will of London voters. For a politician to say ‘vote for me, but you can’t vote on major issues’ is wrong.”

“It is expected this will drastically increase voter turnout, which is good for everyone,” he wrote.

On the fluoride issue, Orser was upset when he felt council failed to properly consider a petition he filed signed by 1,445 fluoride opponents as it decided to continue adding the chemical to drinking water. Water flouridation is widely practised in North America to reduce tooth decay.

Some members of council have spoken against being directed by such public votes on issues, arguing they must weigh all evidence to make the best decisions for all Londoners. If voters don’t like those decisions, they argue, they can choose different politicians.

Under Ontario’s municipal elections law, all questions asked by a municipality on the ballot have the potential to become binding.

Results are non-binding if the turnout is less than 50%.

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What Coun. Stephen Orser wants on the 2014 ballot:

  • Should the city continue a 0% tax increase for the next four years?
  • Should the city fluoridate your municipal water?
  • Should the city council jobs become full-time?