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City council pushes forward fluoride question

Cranbrook has officially set the date for the referendum on whether to cease fluoridation of the municipal water supply as Nov. 15.

Council passed the bylaw at the May 12 council meeting. The referendum will be part of the municipal election.

Council also approved the wording for the referendum question: "Are you in favour of Council adopting City of Cranbrook Cease Fluoridation Bylaw No. 3799, 2014, which authorizes stopping the addition of fluoride to the municipal water supply effective January 1, 2015?"

Mayor Wayne Stetski asked whether the referendum question could have a more neutral stance, with the answers being more in line with "continue" or "stopping" to add fluoride.

"In other words, can you put a checkmark by continuing or a checkmark by stopping, or does it have to be yes or no?" Stetski asked.

He said he's worried that  if someone is in favour of fluoridation, the question could be seen as biased.

CAO Wayne Staudt said referendum questions are meant to be as simple as possible and should be the opposite of whatever the original bylaw states.

"We lifted a good portion of this question from other fluoride referendum bylaws, so we didn't invent this question," Staudt said.

City staff estimate the referendum will cost $1,600 for the services of the Chief Elections Officer and $1,000 for the ballots.

Council authorized $10,000 for the creation of "position neutral" information on the benefits and risks of fluoridation of the municipal water supply, as well as the importance of residents' participation in the referendum.

The city first began injecting fluoride into the water in 1966.

City staff noted that since the decision to inject fluoride came initially through a bylaw which received the assent of electors through referendum, the city had two options to change the practice of fluoridation. It could hold the referendum, or apply for Ministerial approval to stop the practice and agree to any terms set forth by the Ministry of Health. Council choose to go to referendum.

If the Nov. 15 referendum is voted down, then the city will continue the practice of fluoridation.

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