By: Greg Peerenboom, Cornwall Standard-Freeholder, Cornwall, Ontario 25-May-2016 – Updated version of story: Cornwall residents won’t be ingesting fluoride through their tap water.
After a drawn-out debate, a motion from Coun. Andre Rivette to “continue” fluoridation did not pass after a deadlocked, recorded 5-5 vote.
Rivette had the support of councillors Denis Carr, Bernadette Clement, Elaine MacDonald and Mark MacDonald.
Opposing the motion were councillors Claude McIntosh, Maurice Dupelle, David Murphy, Carilyne Hebert and, with the last vote, Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy.
Coun. Justin Towndale is on a leave of absence, but indications are he was leaning toward discontinuing fluoridation.
After clerk Helen Finn announced that a tie vote means the motion was defeated, about a dozen spectators in the gallery applauded.
“Hundreds have said they don’t want it,” O’Shaughnessy said before the vote.
On the other hand, he could “count on one hand” the number of residents he’s talked to who are in favour of adding fluoride to the water, which was taken out in 2013 as a result of equipment failure.
The mayor explained that “I’m not a scientist” so he could not make a scientific decision.
Others preceded the mayor, citing their lack of scientific training in medicine to make a decision based on information supplied by fluoride proponents and opponents.
In April, council heard from pro-fluoridation Eastern Ontario Health Unit medical officer of health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis and Chief Dental Officer of Canada Dr. Peter Cooney and anti-fluoridation’s Dr. Paul Connett.
Contacted Wednesday, Roumeliotis offered a brief statement of dismay.
“We are extremely disappointed that council did not listen to the scientific/evidence-based advice of health professionals that are mandated and committed to protecting and promoting the health and wellness of all Cornwall residents.”
Carr briefly expressed his belief that fluoridation should continue because the status quo wasn’t defeated, but the mayor explained the motion was to “continue” and that it did not require a two-thirds support.
It’s not clear whether the issue has finally been settled.
After the meeting, after he left the chambers, O’Shaughnessy told Rivette that he would consult a lawyer on the legality of the vote.
Rivette humbly admitted afterwards that he should have worded his motion to ask council to “discontinue” fluordiation, surmising that with a tie, the city would revert to the status quo of adding fluoride to the water.
Mark MacDonald also tried to introduce a new motion to present another option, but was denied by the mayor.
Contacted Wednesday, MacDonald said he wasn’t going to press forward, deferring to the mayor’s position of power, but felt the debate “wasn’t handled properly. As far I’m concerned it’s the mayor’s fault – it wasn’t handled properly.”
Rivette’s motion followed an attempt by Clement to hold a referendum that would allow Cornwall voters to cast ballots for or against fluoridation during the 2018 municipal election.
“I’ve never seen the public so engaged in an issue,” Clement said, of the interest expressed through calls to council or through the media.
The referendum motion only attracted two supporters, O’Shaughnessy and Elaine MacDonald.