Agriculture Minister Lana Popham is questioned about a threatening letter sent to a salmon farm operator, October 2017. (Hansard TV)

B.C. animal lab cleared of conflict accusations over salmon farms

Agriculture Minister Lana Popham’s claims didn’t check out

Premier John Horgan’s deputy minister and an independent consultant have cleared B.C.’s animal disease testing lab in Abbotsford following allegations by Agriculture Minister Lana Popham about the lab’s work.

Don Wright, Horgan’s deputy minister and head of the B.C. public service, released his own report and another one completed by audit firm Deloitte, which “did not identify any evidence of financial or technical conflict of interest” regarding the agriculture ministry’s Animal Health Centre.

Popham said Thursday she considers the $100,000 cost of the audit to be “money well spent,” even though there was no evidence found.

Popham questioned the lab’s work on salmon farms last year after watching a CTV news program following protesters targeting salmon farms on the B.C. coast. She asked for the lab to be investigated after a federal scientist made a comment about scientists at the Abbotsford lab doing work for private sector clients such as salmon farms.

The Deloitte report concludes that this kind of fee-for-service work is “normal practice in almost all veterinary diagnostic laboratories across North America.”

Popham was under fire in the legislature last fall after she sent a letter to Marine Harvest, one of B.C.’s salmon aquaculture operators, warning them not to restock one of their salmon farms off northern Vancouver Island. The letter mentioned the pending renewal decision on land tenures that allow the net-pen farms to operate.

RELATED: B.C. minister warned salmon farm not to restock

RELATED: Opposition presses Popham on allegations about scientist

The Abbotsford lab handles a wide variety of animal health issues, including an avian flu outbreak in Fraser Valley poultry farms in 2014 that gained international attention and led to the euthanizing of thousands of chickens and turkeys.

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