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Proposed Government Response to the First Report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food on Bovine Tuberculosis in the Immediate Vicinity of Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba


The Government of Canada thanks the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food for its report and offers the following response.  It is understood that the issues surrounding bovine tuberculosis in the vicinity of Riding Mountain National Park of Canada are a concern to many stakeholders, including environmental groups, cattle producers, livestock producer associations, tourism operators, First Nations, the Province of Manitoba and local residents.  In responding to the report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Government of Canada has had to balance a number of factors, including the ecological integrity of Riding Mountain National Park of Canada, food safety, the importance of the cattle and tourism industries to the Manitoba economy, and the fiscal environment for funding the Government of Canada’s response to the issue.


Recommendation 1: 


That the Parks Canada Agency ensure that the Superintendent attend all of the meetings with local stakeholders or specifically designate a person to attend and speak on his behalf.


Government Response 1:


Having reviewed the Committee’s recommendation, the Government of Canada is prepared to commit that the Field Unit Superintendent of Riding Mountain, or designate, will be in attendance at all local stakeholder meetings which are sponsored by Parks Canada and/or members of the Federal-Provincial Working Committee (of which Parks Canada and the CFIA are members) and for which attendance by a Parks Canada representative has been requested.


In addition, a new multi-stakeholder advisory committee has been established to provide advice and guidance to the Parks Canada Agency on its actions in support of the Manitoba Bovine Tuberculosis Management Program.  The Field Unit Superintendent will attend all meetings of this Committee and if not available, an acting Superintendent will be assigned to attend and speak on his behalf.


Recommendation 2:


A proactive culling by the Parks Canada Agency to attain the goal of reducing and maintaining the elk herd at 2,500 animals, at least until bovine tuberculosis is totally eradicated in the area of Riding Mountain National Park.


Government Response 2:


The Government of Canada is supportive of the objective of reducing and maintaining the regional elk population at 2,500 animals.  This objective is in direct support of achieving the goals identified in the Manitoba Bovine Tuberculosis Management Program.  These goals include achieving and maintaining a bovine tuberculosis free status in domestic cattle, eradicating bovine tuberculosis in wildlife that poses a risk to agriculture while maintaining a healthy, viable wildlife population in the Riding Mountain Regional Ecosystem, and minimizing interaction of wildlife and livestock.


Three of the management actions that relate to the size of the regional elk population that will be undertaken in 2003/04 include:


Review of the Regional Elk Population Objective and the management strategies to achieve it will be carried out by the Federal-Provincial Working Committee as part of an annual program of reporting and evaluation.  Parks Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are members of this Committee.  This review could lead to a downward adjustment of the herd reduction objective of 2,500 animals.


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Elk Population Reduction management actions which will target animals within the western half of Riding Mountain National Park of Canada where higher prevalence rates of bovine tuberculosis in elk is suspected and from which positive test results in wild elk have been received.  Population reduction targets and the means of achieving these are currently being developed by Parks Canada, in consultation with their partners and the scientific community.


Bovine TB Prevalence Rate Surveillance - a scientifically-based test and cull program for elk and white-tailed deer will be developed and implemented in order to determine the prevalence rate of bovine TB in wildlife in the Riding Mountain Regional ecosystem, of which Riding Mountain National Park is a part. Parks Canada’s focus will be on elk in Riding Mountain National Park.  Parks Canada will, however, work with the Province of Manitoba in the implementation of the surveillance program that focuses on white-tailed deer.


Discussions and consultations with the Federal-Provincial Working Committee, the Bovine Tuberculosis Advisory Committee and local First Nations will be required prior to implementing these accelerated management actions.


Recommendation 3:


That the Minister of Agriculture amend the Health of Animals Act to allow compensation for costs directly resulting from the destruction of herds and other actions taken to control the outbreak in the vicinity of Riding Mountain National Park.  Compensation must include labour and producer time required for testing the animals, paperwork associated with testing, injuries to cattle and any losses during the testing procedure.


Government Response 3:


The Government of Canada does not agree with this recommendation.


The compensation provisions of the Health of Animals Act are not designed to address the impacts of market changes, nor are they intended as insurance.  The Act is intended to provide compensation as a means of encouraging animal owners to report specific diseases in their herds and flocks at the earliest signs, thereby preventing or reducing the spread of disease.


Disease eradication programs in livestock are not only for the public good, but for the good of the industry itself.  Historically, producer groups have agreed that the financial cost of an eradication program (testing costs, mustering fees, etc.) is a worthwhile investment in the future of their industry and the protection of their families against animal diseases that are transmissible to humans.


In December 2002, the CFIA announced its intention to review the regulatory components of the existing compensation program.  As part of the review, the CFIA will be consulting with industry representatives through the Compensation Working Group of the Canadian Animal Health Consultative Committee.  The review will conclude with a set of recommendations to the Minister on the appropriateness of the current compensation maxima and adjustments to how the Minister and the CFIA administer the current Act through regulations and policy.  The Committee’s view will be considered seriously as part of this process.


Under the Agricultural Policy Framework (APF), Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has been exploring, with industry, the principles of business risk management and how they can complement existing programs such as the Health of Animals Act.


While the Health of Animals Act compensates for the asset loss when a producer’s animal is destroyed for disease control reasons and for certain injury-related losses, the programs under the business risk management component of the APF are designed to help producers deal with the income effects of a variety of risks, including disease.  Livestock production, like any enterprise, involves risk.  Private insurance is also an option for producers, particularly those whose animals are of exceptional value.


The business risk management program will provide comprehensive insurance, stabilization and disease coverage through a nationally available, nationally consistent set of programs.  These programs include expanded production insurance and a new business risk management stabilization/disaster program, and federal funding will be devoted exclusively to them on a demand-driven basis.


The primary program available to deal with disaster situations is the new risk management stabilization/disaster program.  Federal and provincial officials are currently looking at ways to expedite the implementation of this new program. An interim payment option is also being considered.


With the recent discovery of a single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), work is ongoing between governments and industry examining a full spectrum of initiatives on animal health issues, including actions around testing procedures.  Bovine tuberculosis will be included in this overall approach.  The Government will keep the Committee informed as work progresses on this action plan.


Pending the results of thorough discussions and consultation on the broader issues of compensation, it would be inappropriate to amend the Health of Animals Act at this time.