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Calgary votes to add fluoride question to October election ballot

Councillors almost voted in favour of re-adding fluoride to the water.

Like, today.

In Monday’s Strategic Council meeting, Calgary city councillors discussed potential questions that could be put to voters in an upcoming plebiscite tacked on to the municipal election ballot.

Councillors heard information on the addition of fluoride back into Calgary’s water back in December 2020. They heard that it would cost roughly $30 million over the next decade to include it in the water.

When an amendment was suggested by Coun. Jyoti Gondek to get the Chief Medical Officer of Health involved, it was defeated.

But, Mayor Nenshi then suggested that the actual question be put to council. That was put forward by Coun. Evan Woolley.

He said that when the province won’t take action, it’s up to the city to step up.

“When our province fails to do something, and we have the power to do it, whether it’s affordable housing or whether it’s voting on mask bylaws, I think it’s absolutely incumbent upon us to do this,” he said.

A matter of choice, said Coun. Sutherland

Ward 1 Coun. Ward Sutherland said in the evidence presented by the O’Brien Institute for Public Health there was information that it could harm people. There’s also evidence that it would provide significant public health benefit, particularly for low-income families.

“This is where it gets very confusing because you got two different opposite views on the same item,” Sutherland said.

But, where there is a negative health impact on Calgarians, they are now left with no choice on the matter.

“Once you put it in the water, you’ve now removed all my choice, and every single Calgarians’ choice,” he said.  

“Because if you didn’t have fluoride in it and you want fluoride, while you have toothpaste, you have pills, you have drops, you have all those choices you could go forward with. But as soon as you put it into the water you’ve taken all that choice away.”

Mayor Nenshi said council’s decision to remove fluoride in 2011 was the wrong one. Especially when two prior plebiscites showed that Calgarians wanted it in the water.

He brought up an anecdote where he had one cavity as a kid that they had to save up to pay for. Since they’ve taken fluoride out of the water, he’s had two more.

“So ultimately for me, if I believe that I want to protect kids from getting hit by cars, I also want to protect them from the lifetime problems that they might have with poor dental health,” he said.

Matter goes to a plebiscite in October

In the end, however, councillors opted not to add it and put the question once again to Calgarians.

This was approved 10-4.