Liberal leader Justin Trudeau plants a tree with sons Xavier and Hadrien (left) during a campaign event in Plainfield, Ont. on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. Trudeau’s massive tree-planting promise from the 2019 election has yet to be allocated a budget. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau plants a tree with sons Xavier and Hadrien (left) during a campaign event in Plainfield, Ont. on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. Trudeau’s massive tree-planting promise from the 2019 election has yet to be allocated a budget. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

No budget yet for Liberals’ promise to plant two billion trees by 2030

Alberta Conservative MP Rachael Harder said called the lack of a budget for tree planting ‘shameful’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s massive tree-planting promise from the 2019 election has yet to be allocated a single dime.

Trudeau pledged a year ago that the government would plant two billion more trees by 2030, or about 200 million extra trees per year. It was to be part of a $3-billion, decade-long effort to manage, conserve and restore forests, grasslands and wetlands, starting with $300 million in 2020-21.

It was clear last month that no trees had been planted this year, a failure Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan’s staff chalked up to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now it has become clear the program was never given any money.

“We are awaiting a budget decision,” said Beth MacNeil, assistant deputy minister of the Canadian Forest Service, before the House of Commons’ natural-resources committee on Oct. 30.

“But in the meantime we do continue, myself and my team, since late last fall to engage with potential partners.”

Alberta Conservative MP Rachael Harder said called the lack of a budget for tree planting “shameful.”

“It’s a tree scam,” she said.

NDP environment critic Laurel Collins agreed with Harder that the Liberals have constantly promised to take action on climate change but the follow-through has been abysmal.

Collins said the fact the tree promise didn’t even have a budget yet is “kind of shocking.”

Typically about 600 million trees are already planted each year in Canada, and the pledge for two billion more over a decade was to be on top of that. Over 10 years, that would have meant about 33 million more trees a month during tree-planting season. Over the nine years left, the government will have to plant at least 37 million more a month.

In mid-June, O’Regan said he was hoping the summer would be “one of the most ambitious” tree-planting seasons Canada had ever seen but was trying to figure out how to help tree-planting companies facing increased costs to keep workers safe in the era of COVID-19.

“It’s setting up to be and will be a good down payment on our commitment to two billion (trees).” he said in an interview June 15.

The government ultimately provided $30 million to tree-planting companies and pulp and paper mills to improve COVID-19 safety measures.

“I’m very happy to report that with the added money that was available, not a single tree planter actually contracted COVID,” MacNeil said Friday. “So the extra measures that we took — extra vehicles, extra dining halls, right along the whole tree-planting value chain, the protection of communities that these tree-planters went into — was a success, and all 600 million trees got planted this year.”

O’Regan’s spokesman, Ian Cameron, said Monday the extra planting will be done.

He did not explain why there hasn’t been a budget allocated yet, but said the government is finalizing the program’s design, including where the trees will be planted, what kind of trees they will be, and how they will be monitored to see how many survive.

MacNeil said two billion trees will cover an area twice the size of Prince Edward Island.

Forests can be large carbon sinks, absorbing millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide, keeping it from trapping more heat in our atmosphere. However when trees die, they emit the carbon dioxide they stored.

For more than a decade Canada’s forests have been a net contributor to global warming, emitting more carbon than they are absorbing.

The Forest Products Association of Canada last winter outlined for the government some of the challenges inherent in fulfilling its tree-planting pledge, including the pressures on nurseries to grow millions more seedlings for planting — seedlings can take one to four years to mature.

As well, FPAC warned there are regular struggles to find workers able and willing to do work that is physically demanding, mostly seasonal and often without benefits.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Environment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Overlooking Ucluelet’s Main Street shopping district, Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce executive director Laurie Filgiano cozies up with ‘Snowy’, the beloved decorating contest trophy. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Ucluelet’s Midnight Madness shopping spree gets a stiff shot of madness this weekend

“As a community, I think we will come out of this stronger.”

Josie Osborne was sworn into the Legislature virtually on Nov. 24. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Josie Osborne named minister of municipal affairs

The position was previously held by Selina Robinson, who is the province’s new finance minister

A sign at the entrance to Ty-Histanis asks visitors to stay out of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Westerly file photo)
Leaders from Tofino-Ucluelet region urge tourists to stay away for two weeks

The West Coast is pausing its winter tourist season temporarily due to rising COVID-19 numbers

This large Spruce was one of several trees that came crashing down around CARE’s animal shelter during Nov. 17’s windstorm. (CARE Network photo)
Funding and fosters needed after storm destroys fencing at Tofino-Ucluelet animal shelter

The damage forced an evacuation of the facility, which was sheltering five animals at the time.

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks along the seawall in North Vancouver Wednesday, November 25, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
911 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths as B.C. sees deadliest week since pandemic began

Hospitalizations reach more than 300 across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Freighter anchored off Kin Beach in Chemainus. (Photo by Don Bodger)
MP to host expert panel for virtual town hall on freighter anchorages issue

Residents can participate through MacGregor’s website or Facebook page Dec. 3

Lake Cowichan’s Oliver Finlayson, second from left, and his family — including grandma Marnie Mattice, sister Avery, mom Amie Mattice and dad Blair Finlayson — were all smiles on Nov. 16 when their pool arrived, thanks to lots of fundraising and the generosity of the Cowichan Lake community. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Cowichan Lake community comes together to help family get vital pool

Oliver Finlayson, 9, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy and hydrotherapy is a big help

Most Read