It began with a letter to the editor, was followed by a request for the town’s attention, and now has led to Whitecourt council asking for citizens’ written opinions.
The issue is fluoridation of water.
Since 1965 Whitecourt has been adding fluoride to its water supply.Like most Canadian communities, it was responding to an identified need with a practice that had been used since 1945. At that time scientists and medical people were recommending fluoridation saying it was to reduce the incidence of tooth decay (cavities).
Because the primary victims of chronic tooth decay are children and the poor, it was thought that the conflict between individual rights and the common good was justified.
More recently fluoridation has been under attack. It’s opponents say it can have adverse effects on health. They suggest that those who want to use fluoride can apply it through fluorine-containing toothpaste.
Calgary recently stopped fluoridating its water following public demand.
Now, Whitecourt council is asking citizens for input. Do we want fluoridation or not?
It’s admirable. True democracy demands discussion, debate and finally acceptance and compliance with the majority view.
But, fluoridation is not an issue that has engaged many people yet. The burning issue in Whitecourt is the change in the method of garbage pickup.
Some people say they are physically unable to comply with the requirements. Some resent the weekly requirement to move the new wheeled garbage cart.
Others resent being made legally responsible for the carts without ever having been asked for their consent. Others say that given the fact that only one side of some streets are plowed during snowfalls, ensures the system cannot work. This continues to anger people.
Garbage pickup, much more so than fluoridation, is an issue council should revisit, going to citizens with explanations to inform them and ultimately accepting the will of the majority.