A Plant and Animal Health Strategy for Canada
1. Introduction

Protecting the health of plants and animals helps safeguard the food supply, the health of Canadians and the environment, and contributes to economic growth and prosperity. Canada's current approach to the protection of plant and animal health relies on the efforts of partners from all levels of government, industry, academia and others, who undertake activities individually and together. The approach includes a diverse set of activities such as assessing and managing risks to plants and animal health; setting, implementing and enforcing standards and rules; controlling imports; detecting and monitoring emerging and endemic pests, diseases and other health risks; preparing for emergencies; and taking action to minimize impacts and promote resilience when emergencies do occur.

While Canada's current approach has a strong foundation, it also has vulnerabilities, increasing challenges, and opportunities for improvement.

Recent experiences show that although Canada can respond to, and recover from, plant and animal health emergencies, this comes at a substantial cost and involves significant loss of productivity, income, and market access. These experiences strongly support the need for increasing the emphasis on preventing targeted risks where feasible, as a more desirable and sustainable approach, while maintaining a strong capacity to respond to emergencies when they occur.

Plant and animal health emergencies can entail substantial costs: two examples

A 2002 studyFootnote 1 for the Canadian Animal Health Coalition estimated impacts to the Canadian economy of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease as high as $46 billion, depending on the location and severity of the outbreak. The $46 billion figure included disease control costs, primary and processing sector impacts, tourism and non-agriculture-related impacts, and trade-loss opportunity impacts. In 2017 dollars, these estimated costs would have grown to more than $60 billion.

A 2009 reportFootnote 2 for the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers conservatively estimated potential avoided costs of $165 million per year by preventing the introduction and establishment in Canada of four invasive forest insects and diseases, based on case studies of Asian longhorn beetle, emerald ash borer, Sirex wood wasp and sudden oak death disease. The report estimated that every dollar spent on coordinated multi-jurisdictional prevention activities for a given pest could avoid three dollars of spending on mitigation, regulatory and depletion costs.

In addition, although the current approach does provide a level of protection from risks, changes in the external context have become more frequent and varied such that partners' activities must constantly evolve to keep pace. If it is to ensure protection of plant and animal health across all regions of the country, ongoing public trust, and sustained support to economic growth and international trade, Canada's approach will need to better integrate partners' efforts and be more proactive in adjusting to a range of increasingly complex and evolving challenges, for example:

  • Increased volumes and changing patterns of movement of people and goods across borders;
  • Industry consolidation, technology changes, and globalization of supply chains; and
  • Impacts of climate change on plant and animal health.

There are also inherent challenges with Canada's current approach, for example:

  • The large number of partners and diversity of activities, without overall coordinating structures, makes it difficult to integrate and coordinate efforts across all partners;
  • The pressure to react quickly to address needs, which predisposes partners to act independently and miss out on the potential benefits of collaboration; and
  • Unequal access to information, knowledge and effective practices across partners.

To address these present-day challenges and those of the future, Canada's approach must become more agile and forward-looking, and better structured and coordinated.

1.1 Context and Purpose of Developing the Plant and Animal Health Strategy

As a key deliverable under the Emergency Management Framework for Agriculture in Canada that was established in July 2016, federal, provincial, and territorial (FPT) ministers of agriculture asked partners to work collaboratively to develop an integrated strategy to prevent and mitigate risks to plant and animal resources.Footnote 3

In developing this strategy (the Plant and Animal Health Strategy for Canada), partners set out a collective vision, guiding principles, and objectives for improving Canada's ability to respond to changing needs, challenges and opportunities. The vision for plant and animal health is consistent with the One Health concept, in that it recognizes that safeguarding plant and animal health contributes to protecting the health of humans and the environment. The Strategy also provides direction and prospective actions for the near term that build towards prospective activities for the longer term, as well as a mechanism for ongoing dialogue among partners to continuously adjust the activities under the Strategy when necessary to adapt to risks, needs and capacities. When elaborating activities and a plan for implementing the Strategy, partners built upon ongoing activities and identified new ones to contribute towards the three desired outcomes of the Emergency Management Framework for Agriculture in Canada, specifically:

  • Enhanced prevention and mitigation-Risks are prevented or mitigated through a culture of proactivity, responsible action, policies and programming
  • Collaborative action-Emergency management partners place collaboration at the forefront and maximize the use of each other's strengths, capacities and expertise for predictable, seamless, coordinated and sustainable emergency management activities
  • Building sector resilience-A sector that is prepared to address risk, adapts to changing conditions, and is able to withstand and recover from emergencies.

The purpose of developing the Plant and Animal Health Strategy for Canada is to:

  • Galvanize partners around a shared vision and objectives for an integrated approach to safeguarding plant and animal health in Canada;
  • Set the direction for essential sustained improvements to Canada's approach, through structures, processes and activities;
  • Build upon and coordinate the efforts of all partners to achieve cohesion, maximize synergies, and minimize duplication, overlaps and gaps;
  • Identify priorities and concrete actions for the near term, and directions for the longer term;
  • Position partners' efforts to continuously improve and evolve in step with their changing risks, needs, and capacities.

A description of how the Strategy was developed, and other FPT frameworks and strategies to consider during the Strategy's ongoing implementation, is provided in Appendix 2.

Date modified: