A West Island MNA says the Quebec government may have to consider changing how island-wide decisions are made if the city of Montreal doesn’t back off its decision to block Dorval from using $400,000 in provincial funding to fluoridate its water.
“The mayor and the taxpayers of Dorval know what is best for them,” Francois Ouimet, whose riding includes Dorval, said in an interview yesterday.
“And when there is a popular demand to move ahead with fluoride, we should allow that, especially” since the Quebec government considers it an “efficient, safe, public health measure that prevents cavities.”
Though Dorval is an independent suburb, the city of Montreal says it has final say on the fluoridation issue because it controls 87 per cent of the votes on the provincially created island council, which oversees island-wide services.
Ouimet, a member of the ruling Liberals, said that if Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay does not reverse his decision on fluoride, “we will have to see what legislative measure we may be inclined to take to allow it to pass.”
“The issue I have to raise is, if the agglomeration of Montreal has that power, can we give it back to the city of Dorval? How could we give Dorval the power to go ahead with fluoridating?”
Dorval stopped fluoridation in 2003 because its equipment had to be updated. The $400,000 would be used to reintroduce fluoride into the city’s water. This week, Montreal said it wouldn’t allow the work to proceed.
Dorval Mayor Edgar Rouleau said he will write to Tremblay this week, asking him to reconsider. “If they don’t want fluoride in Montreal’s water, that’s their business, but they can’t hold Dorval residents as hostages,” Rouleau said.
The city of Dorval runs its own water-filtration plant but such matters as infrastructure are up to the island council.
The Quebec government encourages municipalities to fluoridate their water but has no power to force them to do so, said Genevieve Villemure, a Health Department spokesperson.
The debate over fluoridating Montreal’s water has spanned decades, with opponents calling fluoridation ineffective, unsafe and unethical. But calls for fluoridation have mounted since a study this summer showed Dorval kindergarten children have twice as many cavities as they did when fluoride was added to that city’s drinking water.
Pointe Claire, another demerged suburb that runs its own water-filtration plant, continues to fluoridate its water.
Darren Becker, a spokesperson for the Tremblay administration, said Montreal will not stop Pointe Claire from fluoridating but won’t allow any new fluoridation to occur until there is “a consensus on the issue.”
Last month, in response to calls by fluoridation advocates, Tremblay sent a letter to Quebec Health Minister Philippe Couillard to explain Montreal will not add fluoride to its water unless ordered to so by the province.
If fluoridation is important, Becker said, Couillard should “issue a decree making it obligatory or adopt legislation and the city will comply.”
“But at this point there are as many people who say it’s good for you as say it’s bad for you. So before you’re going to force medication on people, your best bet is to make sure there’s some kind of consensus.”
Rouleau said Tremblay’s stance on fluoridation has nothing to do with his city. “We fluoridated our water for 50 years with no problems, and now the city of Montreal is saying they want another study – but that’s just a delaying tactic,” he said.