Squamish voters said yes to airport development and no to fluoride in their drinking water in municipal referendums Saturday.
Fifty-seven per cent voted yes to an “elector opinion” question on airport development, while 61 per cent voted against fluoridation.
Just over 2,100 voters cast ballots — 25 per cent of eligible voters.
While the fluoride referendum is legally binding — a 50 percent yes vote would have added fluoride to the water supply — the airport vote is not. The District of Squamish held the vote to get community support to take to the provincial government, which must approve any subdivisions in the Cheekye Fan Terrain Hazard Zone, including the airport lands.
The fluoride campaign pitted all of Squamish’s doctors and dentists against a crew of community activists with the backing of the B.C. Health Action Network Society (HANS).
“Obviously, I’m relieved,” said Jack Fowler, who spearheaded the anti-fluoridation effort.
“I was really worried about if it went in. You can’t filter that stuff out.”
Fowler credited HANS for its assistance with information in the campaign. “That’s probably what brought over more people than anybody.”
Fowler said he was “very intimidated” going against the opinion of Squamish’s entire medical community, but emphasized it was not an anti-medical issue.
“It had to be an issue of choice,” he said.
“I think people are more informed these days and convinced that the medical profession doesn’t have all the answers.”\\\\\\\\
“People are becoming more aware and making more choices for themselves.
“If people want it, they can just put it in. That’s been the basis of the campaign and the message. There’s questions about safety, so don’t put it in.”
Dr. Lori Vanzella, who helped lead a campaign by local doctors and dentists to add the fluoridation question to the ballot, said Sunday he was disappointed but “not overly surprised” by the vote against fluoride.
“Once you implant some of the negative things in people’s minds it’s pretty difficult to dislodge that,” he said.
The appearance of information about Dr. Hardy Limeback, a leading pro-fluoride researcher who recently changed his views and now opposed (sic) fluoridation, probably swayed the vote, Vanzella admitted.
Vanzella said doctors likely won’t push for another vote on fluoride in the future. “It’s a very difficult thing to have passed because of the stigma of fluoridation and the anti-fluoride movement,” he said.
“They’re very organized. You just can’t argue with them and trying to get into a debate with them makes no sense, because you can bring in all the research you want and it makes no difference.”
Vanzella said he expects Squamish will continue to see elevated tooth decay, and will still recommend fluoride supplements to patients when necessary.
“The problem is you don’t see everybody,” he said.