As a public meeting into whether Sarnia should have a ballot question this October on water fluoridation got underway Monday, Mayor Mike Bradley reminded council chambers the debate was about whether or not to ask voters their opinions via plebiscite, not to argue the merits or hazards of fluoride in drinking water.
His words had limited effect.
Bradley interjected about a half-dozen times to bring speakers back on point before council ultimately voted down the mayor’s motion for a ballot question – made, he said, to get a snapshot of public opinion on the contentious debate that has come back repeatedly to council chambers.
Various Sarnia councils have voted both to scrap the chemical ion and keep it – the latest vote in 2017 to keep it. But even with Sarnia’s backing, fluoride’s removal has been stopped in the past by the Lambton Area Water Supply System (LAWSS), requiring four of its six member municipalities to vote in favour for fluoride to be removed.
Bradley has said he wanted a non-binding sense of where the Sarnia public stands to help guide future councils as they tackle the question.
“It will repeat. It will come back,” he said, sensing defeat just before the three-three tie that sent his motion to the waste bin.
Fluoridating water is backed by the World Health Organization, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Canada, and many other reputable bodies.
Proponents say it prevents tooth decay, particularly in children and especially for those who don’t have the financial means for proper dental care or nutrition.
Opponents say it can cause teeth to mottle and the way it’s added to water also introduces trace components of hazardous chemicals.
Most members of the public who spoke were against putting the question – ‘Are you in favour of the discontinuance of the fluoridation of the public water supply of this municipality?’ – on the election ballot. Only one said he was in favour in principle, but preferred the question be reworded.
“No one is saying in a proper form, in a proper application, fluoride isn’t good for teeth. It is absolutely,” said Coun. Matt Mitro, who also suggested the wording of the question be reworked.
“However, is the process of doing this, the way it’s being done, the right way to do that?” he asked.
Under the Municipal Elections Act, the results of a ballot question are binding if at least 50 per cent of eligible electors vote on the question, city staff said, in a report to council.
Coun. Bev MacDougall said despite the many forays into water fluoridation pros and cons she’s witnessed on Sarnia city council, she’s reticent to go against the bevy of regulatory agencies in favour of the practice.
“I’m not as smart as the rest of them,” she said.
“I’m not in favour of putting this on the ballot because I think there’s an awful lot of people just like me out there, and it’s too complex.”
Bradley noted the passion on both sides of the issue.
“Bringing up the f-word, I’m sorry this last week I did because I’ve heard from most of North America one way or another,” he said.
*Original article online at http://www.theobserver.ca/2018/02/26/sarnia-city-council-votes-against-plebiscite-on-water-fluoridation