AGRI Committee Report
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HOUSE OF COMMONS
The Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food has the honour to present its
Follow-up Study on Bovine Tuberculosis Monitoring and Eradication Programs in the Vicinity of Riding Mountain National Park
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the Committee undertook a follow-up study on Bovine Tuberculosis Monitoring and Eradication Programs in the vicinity of Riding Mountain National Park.
Two years after the release of its report entitled Bovine Tuberculosis in the Immediate Vicinity of Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba, the Standing Committee conducted a fact-finding mission to Dauphin (MB) on 3 and 4 October 2005.
The Standing Committee received written evidence and, during a full day of hearings, had the opportunity to hear from the following witnesses:
- Riding Mountain Liaison Committee: Calvin Pawluk, Member, Board of Directors.
- Bovine Tuberculosis Stakeholders Advisory Committee: John Whitaker, Chair.
- Riding Mountain TB Science Advisory Committee: Paul Paquet, Chair.
- University of Manitoba: Ryan Brook, Department of Environment and Geography, Clayton H. Ridden Faculty of Environment, Earth, and Resources.
- Parks Canada Agency: Greg Fenton, Field Unit Superintendent, Riding Mountain National Park; Doug Bergeson, Ecosystem Scientist, Riding Mountain National Park.
- Canadian Food Inspection Agency: Philip H. Amundson, Executive Director, Operations, Western Area; George Luterbach, Network Chief, Animal Health and Production - Program Network - West; Maria A. Koller-Jones, Senior Staff Veterinarian, Disease Control.
- Manitoba Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives: Allan Preston, Assistant Deputy Minister, Agri-Industry Development; Shelagh Copeland, Manager, Farm Production Extension, Livestock Knowledge Centre.
- Manitoba Cattle Producers Association: Bill Finney, Chair, Animal Health Committee; Betty Green, Past President.
- Parkland Producers Association: Renske Kaastra, Chairperson.
- Manitoba Conservation: Jack Dubois, Director, Wildlife and Ecosystem Protection; Ken Rebizant, Big Game Manager.
- Dairy Farmers of Manitoba: Jim Wade, General Manager.
- Manitoba Lodges and Outfitters Association: Carl Wall, Executive Director.
- Riding Mountain Landowners Association: Glen Campbell, Vice President.
- West Region Tribal Council/Coalition of First Nations: Dwayne Blackbird.
- Manitoba Wildlife Federation: John Williams, President.
- As an Individual: Metro Belbas.
- Ranchers Choice Beef Co-op Ltd.: Ken Yakielashek, President; Frieda Krpan, Director, Chairperson Media/Communications.
- Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society - Manitoba Chapter: written evidence.
Members of the Standing Committee have been impressed by the significant actions and very tangible results that have been conducted and achieved in the past two years. Members were especially pleased to see what can be accomplished when will and positive, collaborative attitudes amongst stakeholders are the driving forces behind a common goal: the eradication of Bovine Tuberculosis (BTb) in the Riding Mountain National Park area. As well described by Dr Allan Preston from Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives: “It is essential that people in the area have the opportunity to learn (…) about the disease (…) they need to be a part of the decision making as they have the knowledge and are the ones directly most affected.”
In that context, primary producers and their associations, First Nations communities, local, provincial and federal governments – notably Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives, local Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) officials, Parks Canada, Manitoba Conservation – the Manitoba Wildlife Federation, the Riding Mountain Regional Liaison Committee, outfitters, environmental organizations, and the University of Manitoba, through the research and monitoring activities of Mr. Ryan K. Brook, constitute a model of collaboration and communication for other Canadian communities.
Members were also pleased to hear from several witnesses that the Standing Committee's 2003 report has been instrumental in some of these changes. As stated by the representative of the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association: “[p]ast recommendations from the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food have made a significant difference to the situation in Manitoba, helping to trigger many actions.” For instance, a stakeholder advisory committee has been established; a scientific review committee – composed of federal and provincial scientists and academics – has been created as an extension of the advisory committee; efforts have been made to keep the wildlife population at manageable levels; and Parks Canada has enhanced its laboratory capacity and the quality of its sampling program.
The communication, prevention, control, and surveillance issues addressed in the Standing Committee's 2003 report still face challenges, but positive actions have been taken and they appear to be all on the right path. There is, however, one important issue of the report that is still pending, which continues to be a major irritant for stakeholders. Compensation, either for costs directly resulting from the destruction of a herd or for other actions taken to monitor the disease in the eradication area, appears to be on a rather slow track for revision.
The Standing Committee is aware that the values for livestock destroyed are currently under review, and that consultations will be held on the review of the Health of Animals Act Regulations; but the absence of communication or concrete actions in the specific context of Riding Mountain National Park is detrimental to the CFIA's reputation.
Unlike the Parks Canada Agency, which has taken a transparent and collaborative approach with stakeholders, the CFIA and its approach are perceived negatively. “CFIA (…) can learn a lot about working with stakeholders from the new approach taken by Parks Canada. (..) The corporate culture of CFIA (…) seems to be based on old style consultations in that they tell us what they are going to do and then they ask us if there are any questions, rather than basing their consultation on developing us as full partners and providing us with a complete sharing of information and sort of a team-based approach,” stated the representative from the BTb Stakeholders Advisory Committee. Although local CFIA officials are not responsible, it is they who are, unfortunately, paying the price for this apparent lack of communication. For the Standing Committee, this is in some ways reminiscent of hearings conducted in Abbotsford earlier this year on the actions taken by various stakeholders during the Avian Influenza outbreak of 2004 and the role played then by the CFIA.
The current compensation provision in the Health of Animals Act allows the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food to pay the livestock owner the market value of animals destroyed. As an enforcement agency, the CFIA has no other choice than to respect the Health of Animals Act, which is very precise in terms of compensation limits. In its response to the Standing Committee's 2003 report, the government stated: “Disease eradication programs for livestock are not only for the public good, but for the good of the industry itself.” This response is probably acceptable in a normal outbreak of disease, but it does not take into account the specific context of the eradication program in the vicinity of Riding Mountain National Park, where elk and deer constitute a reservoir of BTb. Because the disease is endemic, there is a need for repeated and regular testing of livestock herds, which not only creates financial and emotional stress for owners, but also has potentially detrimental effects on cattle, such as abortions and injuries. Some witnesses mentioned that even a symbolic payment when tests are conducted would be appreciated, as it would show that the CFIA is recognizing the producers' collaboration.
The Standing Committee considered all the written and oral evidence presented by witnesses, and regrets that recommendation number three contained in its 2003 report continues to be a pending issue that has not yet been resolved in a way that meets the Riding Mountain cattle producers' and other stakeholders' expectations. In the same context, the Committee took note that current business risk management programs do not appear to provide appropriate compensation for costs associated with repeated BTb testing. The Standing Committee therefore recommends:
- That the Government take the necessary legislative actions to amend the Health of Animals Act to improve its compensation provision, particularly for high-value breeding stock, and to allow other types of compensation including for mustering fees, losses resulting from testing and forgone income, notably when cattle are used as sentinel herds, and, if necessary, promptly implement measures outside the Act to allow these other types of compensation.
The Standing Committee also took note that BTb samples were sent to the CFIA laboratories in Nepean within 36 hours. It is unclear why the Canadian Science Centre for Human and Animal Health located in Winnipeg is not used for conducting these tests. The Standing Committee therefore recommends:
- That the Canadian Food Inspection Agency conduct a review of its procedure regarding the analysis of TBt samples coming from the Riding Mountain National Park to ensure that the most efficient approach is applied.
Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the Committee requests that the government provide a comprehensive response to this report.
Copies of the relevant Minutes of Proceedings of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food (Meetings Nos. 55, 57 and 60) are tabled.
Paul Steckle, M.P.