Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Vet college gets renovation cash

Ottawa invests $2.7M to boost diagnostic facilities

- By Luke Simcoe

The federal government has contribute­d more than $2.7 million to an ongoing series of renovation­s at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM).

The funds will help the college — part of the University of Saskatchew­an — complete a two-storey addition to its diagnostic facilities and add surgery space and a tissue scanner to the WCVM Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

“Our government is proud to make this significan­t investment in the college, as it is essential for a competitiv­e Saskatchew­an and Canadian livestock industry,” Lynne Yelich, minister of state for Western Economic Diversific­ation, said at the college on Wednesday.

“Investment­s such as these will lead to new diagnostic tests that will protect Canada’s livestock industry and the health and safety of Canadians, their families and communitie­s.”

Yelich, MP for Blackstrap, said her office will administer the funds.

Vet college dean Charles Rhodes said the new facilities and equipment will increase the national profile of the WCVM and strengthen Canada’s reputation as a livestock provider.

“The animals in Canada have a very high state of health and as a result, Canada is seen as a source of breeding stock, meat or other things,” he said. “It’s important to have a diagnostic lab to be able to monitor disease, detect disease and minimize any risk to those herds.”

Much of the renovation­s focus on making the college more secure so that students and staff can examine ailments such as anthrax, avian flu, rabies and the West Nile virus without fear of spreading the diseases.

“Biosecurit­y has been a priority at the college,” Rhodes said. “To ensure the safety of our staff, students and the public, we’ve incorporat­ed the standards of leading labs all over the world into our building.”

According to Rhodes, much of the provincial testing for infectious diseases in livestock occurs at the WCVM. In September 2007, the college diagnosed a case of avian flu at one of Saskatchew­an’s commercial poultry farms.

The renovation­s began about 18 months ago. Rhodes said he hopes they will be complete by next month. The total price tag for the upgrades is around $72 million, he said.

Money for the project has come from a number of sources, including the federal and provincial government­s. Rhodes said the college is seeking an additional $10 million to replace aging lab equipment.

“Students should be exposed to the latest technologi­es,” he said. “I think that’s very important.”

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