At the moment it is unclear as to where Nipawin Town Council sits on a proposal to fluoridate town water. Council defeated a motion to hold a referendum on the issue, which would have occurred during a by-election scheduled for September 2017.

During a regular council meeting on June 12, Mayor Rennie Harper says she raised her hand in favour of the proposed referendum. This was not noted as the motion was defeated in what appeared to be an all out consensus. In previous coverage, the Journal reported that all of Council was opposed to the referendum but Mayor Harper says she raised her hand in favour of it.

The question remains, why did Mayor Harper vote this way?

“The reason I’m in favour of the referendum is because fluoride issues have been notoriously controversial. People want to talk about them and make up their mind about them and I think having a referendum gives the public a chance to actually think about whether or not they want fluoride and [that way] it’s not a decision that’s made by me, or Council,” she said.

Harper says she had no idea how Nipawin councillors were going to vote and was surprised by the results.

“It took me a little unaware,” she said.

One thing that is not clear is where the Mayor sits on the issue. During an interview with the Journal the Mayor refused to say where she stands on the proposed fluoridation of town water.

“Actually I’m not going to answer that. I think it’s a personal issue for everybody and I don’t think that I will answer that,” she said. Harper says timing-wise a referendum would have made sense.

“The fact that we’re having a by-election on September 20th means that this topic is very timely because we have a public vote anyway, so to have a referendum would make total sense,” she said.

So, how did this issue come about, and why is Council now considering water fluoridation?

“Early in the year we received a letter from the medical health officers in the province and of course it’s probably on their mind because we are building a water treatment facility and other communities have agreed to Fluoridation, Tisdale and Melfort for example. It came to a public works standing committee meeting, and the conversation was, that we need to do some investigation, so we invited the public health officer to attend and all the councillors were in the meeting, except one. We had a presentation and from there we considered it,” explained the Mayor.

For now the decision has come back to Council for more discussion, but Mayor Harper can’t say where the councillors sit on the issue.

“No, I would not predict that.Because there will not be a referendum what we will do is have a public presentation on fluoridation from the public health folks. I’m taking it pretty seriously,” she said.

Dozens, maybe hundreds of people in the town of Nipawin buy bottled water, filter their water using reverse osmosis, or use a Brita filter system. It would seem that not many people in town drink their tap water. So, who would be helped by the fluoridation of water? Harper thinks fluoridation could help low income families and seniors even though it is unclear how many people in town drink their tap water.

“There are lots of statistics, lots of information from the World Health Organization. Especially for children in low income families, it does help kids. It reduces the amount of dental surgeries and if you ever been in health care and been involved with a dental surgery it’s a horrendous thing. It assists seniors in maintaining dental health because access to dental health for low income seniors is not always that great. It’s a population issue”.

“We are having a new water treatment plant, they may not be drinking our tap water today for some reason but they certainly may later. I don’t know whether we would be a study, perhaps now is not the time for doing a study”.

CAO Barry Elliot does not think doing a study is worth the while.

“The public health probably have far more detailed information and again, we can choose to have a fluoride treatment when we go for our checkups, we can choose to use fluoride in our toothpastes, all those sorts of things”.

In the meantime Council will be mulling over the information. A public information session on fluoridation will be organized at a later date.

* Original article online at