Sunday, July 14, 2024

Public service

In his presentation on Monday evening in Allumette Island, Mayor Corey Spence referred frequently to comments made by Dr. Paul Connett on the wisdom of incineration, and found much with which to agree.
Connett was one of four presenters who participated in a public information meeting on the incinerator project convened by Citizens of the Pontiac in Campbell’s Bay in early March, and whose video criticizing incineration as a means of dealing with municipal waste is currently circulating locally through social media. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Cambridge and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Dartmouth College, is a retired professor of environmental chemistry and toxicology and has long been an outspoken opponent of garbage incineration.
His name also came up at last week’s meeting of MRC Pontiac’s Council of Mayors, during the well-attended public question period on the incinerator project. The warden made a comment about Dr. Connett, saying he had spent much of his life fighting the fluoridation of water, and that he called it poison. She went on to say that fluoride prevents tooth decay and is actually a public health miracle.
It is interesting, to say the least, that the warden chose to attack Connett not on the merits of his arguments about incinerators but on the completely unrelated subject of fluoride.
For one thing, adding fluoride to drinking water has long been, and continues to be, a highly controversial subject. Reputable, peer-reviewed scientific studies suggest that significant increases in the incidence of ADHD and decreases in IQ among children may be attributable to the presence of fluoride in drinking water.
In the sugar-loaded North American diet, the use of fluoride no doubt reduces cavities and takes the pressure off of food manufacturers to reduce the sugar content of their products. Unlike North America, much of Europe does not fluoridate its water. In the European context, it is not at all unreasonable that an expert in toxicology would have strong views on the matter and might not seem so heretical as the warden appears to suggest.
And fluoridation of water has nothing to do with the incinerator debate. So whatever views Connett may have on the question of putting fluoride in public drinking water, they really have no bearing on his position with regards to incineration.
So why does she raise it? Is it because, as Corey Spence has observed, Connett actually makes a lot of good points? Is it because it is pretty difficult to refute Connett’s arguments against incineration, so the strategy must shift to undermining his credibility? Why, seemingly unaware of the extensive literature on fluoridation that reveals a lively debate among people who are experts in the field, does she declare fluoridation to be a miracle?
It is difficult not to see this as an attempt to impugn the reputation of someone who has emerged as an important witness in the local debate about garbage incineration. That she has done it in a private email to mayors just over week ago is one thing; that she has repeated this slur in public is quite another.
Is it any wonder people are skeptical.
In a society with a democratic tradition, this sort of thing is like a red flag to anyone with a sense of how elected officials should conduct themselves, and is just the latest of many red flags on this file involving closed-door decision-making, procedural shortcuts and single-source contracts, among many such manoeuvres.
It’s not the presentations, the explanations, or the spin that is going to do it. It is simply showing the public how a project comes together, the evidence behind the claims, and the thinking behind the initiatives that is going to work. To the extent that the current series of public information meetings on the incinerator issue is able to achieve this, it may prove to be a useful service to the public.

Charles Dickson


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