News / Calgary

Exclusive Poll: Majority of Calgarians want fluoride re-introduced

City council’s 2011 decision oppose what voters want, according to ThinkHQ president Marc Henry

Metro File

About three in five Calgarians want fluoride back into their drinking water, according to a recent survey.

In an exclusive ThinkHQ/Metro News survey conducted through an online research panel between Feb. 29 - March 5, 2016, 452 Calgarians were asked to weigh in on the teeth-baring fluoride debate.

The fluoride fight has resurfaced after a University of Calgary study found tooth decay in children had increased since the chemical was removed from the city’s drinking water in 2011.

Sixty-four per cent of respondents said the city should reintroduce fluoride to the city’s drinking water, while 27 per cent said they’d like the city to keep the fluoride taps dry.

Marc Henry, president of ThinkHQ Public Affairs Inc., said the findings show that voters’ needs oppose city council’s 2011 decision to pull fluoride from taps.

“That decision seems to be offside with two-thirds of their voters,” he said. “I think the U of C study certainly adds some new fuel to the fire.”

Henry noted the city has held four fluoridation plebiscites in the past, meaning it seems likely for another vote to be held.

Coun. Gian Carlo Carra said he wants to see if proponents of fluoridation will push for a plebiscite.

“I'm interested to see how invested the pro-fluoridation crowd is — whether they'll motivate and get it on the ballot,” he said.

Coun. Richard Pootmans said he’d like to see a plebiscite during the next civic election, urging pro-fluoride groups to garner enough signatures — 10 per cent of the population — to prompt a vote.

But Carra said he remains concerned with the 27 per cent don’t want it,  including those who shouldn’t or can’t have fluoride in their water

Carra also remains firm on his stance that water fluoridation falls under the responsibility of Alberta Health financially, not the city.

However, Alberta Health recently said it won’t fund water fluoridation if the city re-introduces it, emphasizing fluoridation has always been a municipal responsibility historically.

ThinkHQ also surveyed 417 Edmontonians, finding 72 per cent of respondents wants the city to keep adding fluoride to drinking water.

Henry said Calgary’s pro-fluoride number is likely lower because the issue has been highly politicized in the city, compared to Edmonton.

“It hasn’t been really put forward as a political issue (in Edmonton) — it’s there and they’re happy with it,” he said.  “It’s made news in Calgary because you have different groups for and against it.”

In Edmonton, 12 per cent said they’d like water fluoridation discontinued and 15 per cent were unsure.

Coun. Druh Farrell said she thinks the survey asks the wrong question, noting Edmonton’s cavity rates are still higher than Calgary’s.

This online survey utilized a representative, but non-random sample, therefore the margin of error is not applicable. However, a probability sample of this size would yield a margin of error of +/- 4.6 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

The sample group was weighted to reflect gender and age of the City of Calgary based on Statistics Canada demographic information.

To join the Voice of Alberta Panel, visit voiceofalberta.com.

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