Terrace, B.C. council affirms rejection of fluoride referendum request

One councillor, however, thought residents should be able to express choice through a referendum

TERRACE city council has confirmed its position it won’t put the issue of whether or not to continue fluoridating the city’s water supply to a referendum.

By a 6-1 vote at a regular council meeting March 14, the confirmation followed a decision made at a committee of the whole meeting the week before.

Councillor Lynne Christiansen was the only councillor in favour of a holding a referendum, saying that while she has mixed feelings on the value of the chemical to prevent tooth decay and is aware of studies both for and against the practice, she felt city residents should have a choice in deciding what they ingest.

“It’s a bit frustrating, because I knew there are a lot of people in the community who don’t want it,” she said, but added that she knew before the vote she would be the only councillor favouring a referendum.

“I wasn’t shocked, I knew I was the only one,” Christiansen said of her lone vote.

She did note there is a global movement away from using fluoride in water supplies.

Councillors Michael Prevost, Stacey Tyers, Brian Downie, James Cordeiro and Sean Bujtas as well as mayor Carol Leclerc voted against the referendum idea.

Leclerc said the chemical’s tooth decay prevention properties are a benefit to the lower income population of the city.

The city pays $30,000 annually to run the program and $20,000 for the fluoride itself.

The referendum proposal was brought to council by local anti-fluoride advocate Barry Prince who backed his call with a petition of 422 hundred names, 260 of those being Terrace residents and the majority of the others from Thornhill and the regional district.

It’s the third time Prince has tried to convince council to hold a referendum, saying the use of fluoride is harmful to the human system.

Terrace first started fluoridating its water in 1964/1965 following a referendum and reaffirmed that decision with another referendum in 2003.

It is now one of only four communities in B.C. to fluoridate water.

Christiansen felt the timing of the vote, conducted just after a University of Alberta study was released showing that tooth decay had increased in Calgary since it stopped fluoridating its water in 2011, further cemented the position taken by the other council members and the mayor.

“I think they would have to organize a bit more strongly and focus on the next council,” said Christiansen about the possibility of another referendum call some day.