City to poll public regarding ongoing fluoride issue

Council anticipates lively debate on fluoridation of water

City council recently voted to proceed with the recommendation from the planning department to poll the public on how they want a decision made on whether or not fluoride will remain in water.

Tara Shand, with the planning department, said fluoridation of municipal water supplies is being debated in cities and towns across the country.

“We have to include information gathering in the decision-making process to foster good relationships,” she said.

Shand said they plan to use three methods to find out from the public how the choice will be made. They plan to have a survey, an interactive question and answer forum as well as using social media.

Councillor Paul Harris said he would like to see traditional face-to-face methods added to the list of ways to communicate with the public.

“We obviously won’t be able to limit the conversation to just the decision-making process, the debate will come up,” said Shand.

Councillor Dianne Wyntjes said over the past few months that the debate has been going on, council has received a great amount of information and feedback from the public.

“We need to hear from our community, but we need the public to let council know how they would like us to proceed first,” said Wyntjes.

The three options that the public will be able to recommend to council include a decision made by council regarding whether to cease, change or continue the fluoride in the water, a plebiscite carried out to determine which option takes place, or initiating public consultation on the issue.

Both Councillors Tara Veer and Cindy Jefferies said they didn’t like that the process of deciding how to make the decision and making the decision were split up into two separate events.

“The approach that we’ve laid out is a great plan to start the conversation but it feels a bit empty because at the end we’re just going to start a new process,” said Jefferies.

Mayor Morris Flewwelling explained that it was recommended this way so that the process of what is going to be done could be completed before trying to make a decision.

“I realize that in the discussion of how to do it, it will open up the debate but that is not enough,” said Flewwelling.

Community consultation will be completed over the next couple of months and the results will be brought back to council for consideration at the last council meeting next January.

“I think the fluoride debate itself is going to be highly contentious so finding out how the public wants us to make that decision is really important,” said Councillor Chris Stephan.

Ultimately, Harris said no matter what the outcome he feels that the public has to be highly involved.

“There needs to be time and space in order to have a thorough conversation. We’re going to get all kinds of information back and we need to provide a lot of education. I really feel that doing this first step is what is needed,” said Harris.

The resolution passed with only Councillors Veer and Jefferies opposed.