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Calgary city council votes in favour of fluoride plebiscite

Click to play video 'Future of fluoride in Calgary remains up in the air in 2021' Future of fluoride in Calgary remains up in the air in 2021
The reintroduction of fluoride in the city's water system has been a longstanding debate in Calgary's history and could become an election issue in October. Adam MacVicar reports. – Dec 30, 2020

On Monday, Calgary city council voted 10-4 in favour of a plebiscite on fluoride.

The question Calgarians will be answering in the October municipal election: are you in favour of reintroducing fluoridation of the municipal water supply?

Councillors Druh Farrell, Shane Keating, Ward Sutherland and Evan Woolley voted against the plebiscite.

Read more: Calgary city council commissions study to decide if fluoride should be reintroduced to water

Mayor Naheed Nenshi believes letting Calgarians vote on it is the right path to take.

“I believe that council made a mistake when we removed fluoride from the water in 2011 without asking people because it had been put in with a plebiscite,” he said.

“I believe in fluoride as a public health intervention. I know that the World Health Organization has called it one of the most important public health interventions of the 20th century. But ultimately, I also think that because our history in Calgary has been letting people vote, that letting people vote on this was the right thing to do as well.”

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The WHO says adequate exposure to fluoride is an essential factor in the prevention of tooth decay.

Read more: Reintroducing fluoride would not increase water prices in Calgary

City officials say reintroducing fluoride won’t increase water prices in Calgary.

Click to play video 'Calgary councillors look at cost of adding fluoride to drinking water' Calgary councillors look at cost of adding fluoride to drinking water
Calgary councillors look at cost of adding fluoride to drinking water – Dec 1, 2020

History of fluoride in Calgary

Calgarians voted against adding fluoride to drinking water in 1957, 1961 and 1971, according to the City of Calgary. Alberta Health Services says there was an additional plebiscite in 1966.

In a 1989 plebiscite, fluoridation was approved and added to drinking water by 1991, the city said.

After a 1998 review recommended that the city reduce the fluoride level in the water to 0.7 mg/L from 1.0 mg/L, the change was made official in 1999, following another plebiscite.

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The city stopped adding fluoride to water in May 2011, which reportedly saved $750,000 per year.

Read more: Calgary city council says no to re-assessing fluoride in tap water

In 2016, city council rejected a motion to revisit the debate.

According to the city, the 2021 fluoride plebiscite will be Calgary’s seventh.