Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake for his question, which provides me with the opportunity to further elaborate on the role of Parks Canada in dealing with tuberculosis in the elk population.
Parks Canada acknowledges the gravity of the situation involving TB in wild species and cattle in and around the Riding Mountain National Park. Parks Canada will continue to address the threat this disease represents for the ecological integrity and socio-economic situation of the area.
Bovine tuberculosis is a non-native disease in wildlife in Canada. It was introduced into the Riding Mountain area by infected cattle in the early 1900s. There has been sporadic control of the disease since then on a case by case basis. By 1986, it was considered eradicated from Manitoba's cattle. In 1991, however, bovine tuberculosis was again detected in cattle, in a herd near the Riding Mountain National Park. In 1992, it was found for the first time in wild elk. Over the past 11 years, five cattle herds in the area have tested positive for bovine tuberculosis, leading to the destruction of twelve herds in all. Ten wild elk have tested positive since 1997, as has one white-tailed deer.
Parks Canada has been actively working to resolve this problem since the disease was detected in wild animals in 1992. Staff at Parks Canada are collaborating with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Departments of Conservation and Agriculture and Food of Manitoba to provide on-site laboratory services at the park to detect the disease in wild animals. Technicians have tested more than 2,500 elk, moose and deer carcasses. Only 11 specimens tested positive for bovine tuberculosis. Given the results, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has concluded that the disease is still a threat, but a very low level one, to the elk population in the Mont Riding ecosystem.
Parks Canada is well aware of the impact that this disease is having and can have on Manitoba's livestock industry. Although elk populations are not under immediate threat from bovine tuberculosis, it could have a negative impact on the well-being of animals in that area, including elk.
Given the potential impact, Parks Canada has taken various measures to manage the situation.
For instance, it has taken an active role in the implementation of a bovine tuberculosis management program in Manitoba. This five-year program was developed by a inter-agency technical committee on wildlife, including representatives from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Manitoba Agriculture and Food, Manitoba Conservation, and Parks Canada.
Lastly, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has also become an active member of the committee. The Manitoba Cattle Producers Association and the Manitoba Wildlife Federation have also joined the committee and benefit government agencies with their valuable knowledge on the subject.
The main elements of the plan—