Friday, February 6, 2009

Import and Export Gaps Concern Auditor General

(CanWest News Service – David Akin)

Canada’s borders are poorly protected against potentially harmful pests and diseases that could harm the country’s $100-billion-a-year forestry and agriculture industries, federal Auditor General Sheila Fraser warned Thursday. “The findings of our audit are serious,” Fraser said. “The impact that an invasive species can have, either on biodiversity or on the economy of the country, are potentially very significant.”

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for making sure imported plants are pest-free. Fraser said her biggest complaint about the way the agency operates is that it is still largely a paper-based organization with thousands of faxes flying back and forth across the country and among importers. “It’s not surprising that things get lost or misplaced. They don’t have good information about what is coming into the country, the results of inspections, are inspections being carried out as planned – and it goes on and on,” Fraser said.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, who is responsible to Parliament for the CFIA, said the agency must do better. “This is a problem that was identified under the previous government after years of Liberal cuts to CFIA,” Ritz said in an e-mail statement. “We are giving CFIA the tools and budget that are needed to properly fulfil their mandate.” Read more here.