News / Calgary

Nenshi on fluoride: Plebiscite could be an option in 2017

With the fluoridation debate open again Calgarians could ask the issue to go to a vote

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As dentists and parents bare teeth around the recent resurfacing of Calgary's fluoridation debate, Mayor Naheed Nenshi urges those who feel strongly to seek a plebiscite.

Last week Alberta Health Services’ Medical Officer of Health Dr. Richard Musto urged council to go back to the drawing board and re-introduces fluoride into Calgary’s drinking water. Musto’s comments came after a local independent study by the University of Calgary found the removal of fluoride in water had a negative impact on children’s health.

The study — conducted by researchers from the University of Calgary, University of Alberta and AHS — found cavity rates increased in Calgary since the city discontinued the fluoridation of drinking water in 2011.

The mayor, who last week was reported absent from a 2011 vote to remove fluoride from city water, clarified he was there for the debate and voted against the move at that time. Given the chance today he said he's like to see the chemical returned to city water.

"I voted against taking it out and I was very much in favour of engaging more science on this and doing very big lit reviews," said Nenshi. "Today based on the science we got I would vote on putting it back, but I really would like to see a bigger lit study."

Coun. Richard Pootmans, who also voted not to remove public water fluoridation, said he doesn't see the issue coming back to council anytime soon.

"The real test would be, do we have courage to go forward with a referendum, which would be binding," said Pootmans.

Nenshi said although it may not be a political discussion in Calgary for some time, residents are welcome to their concerns.

"I have said many times to dentists and others who have been concerned about this that if you really want to get this onto the ballot in 2017 there is a process to get a plebiscite done," said Nenshi. "If you were to put a petition on the front counter of every dentist's office I suspect you would get your signatures pretty quickly.

"That said, council voted pretty overwhelmingly to remove fluoride from the water, so I'm not sure there would be a political answer here, but people always have the right to put people to plebiscite if they want."

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