Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart is reviving a motion she brought forward more than two years ago in the hope that a new slate of councillors will see Calgary water fluoridation a little differently.
Her notice of motion, which goes before council on Monday, is literally the same document she presented in 2016 with dates and names changed.
She even had the clerks strike out the names of the councillors previously involved, rather than edit the document.
“I said no – I want people to see that I’m submitting the very same thing I submitted two and half years ago.”
The motion doesn’t call on the city to put fluoride back in the city’s water supply – something that it stopped doing in 2011. Instead, it asks councillors allow the University of Calgary’s O’Brien Institute for Public Health to examine existing studies and literature on water fluoridation to determine its effectiveness.
If the motion is approved, the institute would provide its findings in June of this year.
However the last time Colley-Urquhart tried this motion, it failed 9-5, according to the minutes from that meeting.
She thinks it will be a close vote again this time, too.
“I think my biggest challenge in all of this – with politician getting involved, they come in with what I call a confirmation bias,” she said. “If you’ve always been anti-fluoridation, they continue to be against it.
“My personal view is that if you’re a political figure, you should be open to persuasion, open to hearing from the experts, and having the very, very best facts before you.”
Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra is on the minutes from 2011 as having voted against the motion the last time around, although he remembers voting in favour of it.
He said he would be totally open to supporting the study, although he’s not convinced municipal water fluoridation is the best option.
“I think the research is pretty clear that is if you want to stop dental cavities you paint fluoride onto human teeth – you don’t wash the universe in fluoride,” he said. “That doesn’t do anywhere near anything as close to good.”
Carra said it really boils down to two questions: How effective is fluoridation, and whose responsibility is it?
“I’m happy to have that full conversation,” he said. “The concern is that maybe this research is about water fluoridation by a group that’s pro-fluoridation.”
The debate last reared its head in 2016 after a study released by the Cummings School of Medicine found a measurable spike in children’s cavities after Calgary stopped fluoridating its water in 2011.
Putting it back in would come with a cost. Calgary would need to purchase new fluoridation equipment. In 2011, the cost was pegged at $10 million, with an additional $1 million annually for fluoride and system maintenance.
Colley-Urquhart knows that some councillors will argue that dental health is a provincial jurisdiction, and that any costs associated should be picked up by the province, but she wants to get the information first.
“Those arguments are way premature,” she said “Wait for the analysis and facts to be done, and see what the recommendations are before you start pointing fingers at other jurisdictions.
“We have to keep the overall health and welfare of our citizens at heart.”