An online live discussion about the future of fluoride in Red Deer’s water supply is being hailed a hit by participants.
The City of Red Deer hosted Fluoride Cafe online discussions where councillors talked one-on-one with residents on Tuesday and Wednesday about water fluoridation. The city has also engaged the public in an online survey and an public open house was held in November.
A staff report will go to city council on Feb. 6 to disclose what kind of feedback was received in regards with how best to proceed on the issue. Supporters of fluoride say it’s a good way at fighting cavities, but anti-fluoride supporters say it’s no longer necessary when fluoride can be found in toothpaste and that fluoride is actually “hexafluorsilicic acid”, a type of toxic waste.
Tara Shand, senior communications consultant with the city, said the amount of response on the online cafe varied, anywhere from five to 40 people chatting on the issue.
“This is the first time we’ve done this,” said Shand. “Potentially, we may do it on other initiatives, projects. We’ll just have to wait and see. Council seems receptive to it. Any avenue we have to engage with the public is good.”
Coun. Dianne Wyntjes typed comments through the one-hour discussion with six individuals. She found the process worthwhile because “it’s like having a conversation with many people.”
“I also recognize there’s a component of the population that isn’t technologically equipped and they may not have access, or they are working,” Wyntjes said. “Overall, it was a good process.”
During the online forum, Wyntjes told participants she recently bought non-fluoride toothpaste.
“There is enough concern about the ingestion of fluoride for me to believe we should remove it,” she said.
She asked if citizens wanted a plebiscite or whether council alone should decide on whether to continue with flouridation of the city’s water.
Ken Collier, chair of the Red Deer chapter of the Council of Canadians, wrote to say he believes council should make the decision based on reputable science. And that means councillors should read reports and hear from those who study in this area, he said.
A woman named Ashlee (no last name online) said she “thinks this should end up in the hands of the city” because they are well aware of what type of fluoride is being put in the tap water.
Mark Crichton said he thinks council should make the decision because there has been more than enough opportunity for the public to have their say.
Ashlee later asked Wyntjes, “Are councillors worried about losing their jobs, if they make the decision to remove fluoride?”
Wyntjes replied that she can only speak for herself. She only hopes that citizens see her decision-making throughout her whole term in office, should she decide to run again.
Towards the end of the online cafe, Wyntjes was asked if a plebiscite could be held earlier than the 2013 election. She replied it could, but at a cost of around $100,000. Wyntjes is still deciding on whether council should decide or whether a plebisicite should be held. She is waiting to see the results of the conversations like this.
“I am not afraid to make a decision,” she said later. “But at the same time, where is that line where you overstep into where it should be a community issue?”
Reached at his home, Collier said Red Deer seems to be on track when it comes to consulting the public because in Calgary there was an outcry when council voted to eliminate fluoride without extensive public input.
Collier attended the November open house that attracted only a few people. He’s not sure whether people at large are taking the issue seriously.
“The impression I get is that the vast majority of people feel the issue is a yawn,” Collier said.