Stephen Mandel says Alberta Party will push to re-fluoridate Calgary water

Mandel says that he can't make municipalities add fluoride

Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel announces his party's water fluoridation policy at Calgary's Glenmore water plant on Friday, March 22, 2019. AZIN GHAFFARI / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel announced Friday his party would encourage municipalities to fluoridate drinking water, which would strongly prod Calgary to revisit the issue after eight years without fluoride.

Ward 10 Coun. Ray Jones, one of only two councillors to vote on Feb. 26 against reconsidering the issue, said that provincial politicians should mind their own business.

“We don’t need the province getting involved in our own affairs. The province has enough to do without it.”

At Calgary’s Glenmore Water Plant, Mandel emphasized the policy would not be an order to municipalities, but a strong push to have them fluoridate, based on what he said was clear scientific evidence that fluoridation is a benefit to dental health.

Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra said that his position has always been that the issue is a provincial responsibility.

“They can encourage us until they’re blue in the face. . .[but] public health is their bag,” Carra said.

“We don’t have qualified health professionals on staff; we have water people on staff who don’t like working with toxic substances. They wouldn’t put chlorine in the water if they didn’t have to.

“If Alberta Health Services decides that fluoridation of water is the right thing to do, they should do it.”

Mandel, however, is looking to reach a balance between health benefits and municipal

“We’re not here to dictate to municipalities, we’re here to work with them,” Mandel said, adding that his experience as mayor of Edmonton showed him the importance of this.

“I don’t want to second-guess cities. I didn’t like people second-guessing me when I was [mayor].”

At the same time, he said that Edmonton, which has fluoridated its water since 1967, has substantially fewer cavities than Calgary, which has gone back-and-forth several times over the years.

“From what I’ve read, and I’m no expert, I’ve read probably 10 or 15 articles, there’s not a lot that goes into the water,” Mandel said.

In 2011, Calgary stopped fluoridating; in 2016, council voted against revisiting the debate.

On Feb. 26, however, city council voted 13-2 to reconsider the issue, based on an updated study that will be presented in June.

“You’ll never change my mind,” said Jones.

He said that his daughter, a dental assistant, was mad at him for being against fluoride, but that his opposition was because his late father and other senior citizens could not drink fluoridated water.

Carra said that ultimately, he did not ultimately consider fluoridation an important public health concern for provincial officials, including Mandel’s opponents.

“Maybe it has very, very little impact for very little cost, but there are other more important public health issues that we need to address.”

Mandel’s announcement was part of the Alberta Party’s campaign theme of children. He also announced his party would make an annual dental visit for children 12-and-under covered under Alberta Health Services.

-With files from Azin Ghaffari

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