TODD LIHOU - EDITOR: Council vote will be razor-thin when it comes to fluoride

Published on April 28, 2016
Cornwall City Hall

Like the rest of you city council continues to be as divided as the Capulets and the Montagues when it comes to fluoridating Cornwall water.

And not unlike another tragedy, it appears a razor-thin majority at the council table will vote to see fluoride returned to the water supply.

I've railed against fluoride in our water, in large part because workers at the filtration plant shouldn't be exposed to it, and the $350,000 price tag attached to system upgrades is too much when one considers that most of the additives in the water end up right back in the St. Lawrence River before passing through our bodies.

The way council intends to vote on this issue is becoming clearer as time unfolds – and those of us against water fluoridation had best be prepared for disappointment.

Based on the comments made Monday night, it's fair to suggest Councillors Andre Rivette, Elaine MacDonald, Denis Carr and perhaps even Bernadette Clement are in favour putting fluoride back. Clement wasn't nearly as passionate as some of her other colleagues, but the way she was talking Monday night it's fair to suggest she's leaning towards fluoride.

On the flipside are Councillors Claude McIntosh, David Murphy, Justin Towndale and Mayor Leslie O'Shaughnessy who are against the practice.

Undecideds/unknowns include Councillors Maurice Dupelle, Carilyne Hebert and Mark MacDonald.

But based on the scuttlebutt I am hearing from city hall, it's likely those on the fence will vote fluoride – though I hope they don't.

I floated the idea a couple of weeks ago of going the route of a referendum at the next municipal election, but there's not enough support around the council table for such a move – which means sometime next month, likely the first meeting of May, councillors will vote to finally put this issue to rest.

Towndale is now on an extended leave for the next three months while he trains to become a member of the Canadian Forces, so consider that a lost vote on the 'no' side and an even tougher chore for those against fluoride.

WHERE'S THE UNION?: The union representing employees at the water filtration plant had requested time before council to lay out their objections to fluoridation. Union members are especially fearful of the hydrofluorosilicic acid that is added to our water to create fluoride.

The acid is extremely toxic and has left scars on the concrete at the filtration plant where it has, on occasion, accidentally spilled.

The union was told it would not be allowed to address council – likely because the city wants to avoid setting a precedent that would allow other employee groups to make similar pleas if they feel slighted.

It says here if the union is serious about this, then members need to take their message to the people. Protests and information sessions need to be organized.

And while we're on the subject of unions and employees, it surprises me that more councillors with an NDP affiliation aren't stepping up to protect those workers by voting against fluoride.

CHANGING OF THE GUARD: By the time you read this, CAO Norm Levac should be well into his victory lap at city hall.

The likeable Levac, whom Coun. Denis Carr rightly observed to be a most calming influence at 360 Pitt Street, is set to dive head first into a well-deserved retirement that will likely include plenty of fishing and relaxation.

I enjoyed my interactions with Levac and the CAO's office under his care. He always returned phone calls, answered all the questions (even the dumb ones) and I always felt as though he was being genuine.

Levac will be succeeded by Maureen Adams, the longtime finance manager who was the odds-on favourite to get the job. There were a couple of others in the running for the position (including a politician from Brockville, and a Cornwall native with a massive resume) but in the end council went with someone who already lives in Cornwall and knows the city.

It's tough to argue with that decision. I've been a strong believer in promoting from within when it comes to high-profile positions on the municipal roster. The learning curve is not as steep, and it sends a message to other employees that they will be considered for advancement.

Best of luck, Maureen.