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

Okanagan College students Michael Ochoa and Tallin Gregoire, both members of the Okanagan Indian Band, raised the Okanagan Nation Alliance flag on July 16, 2019,  outside the Vernon campus. (Karissa Gall photo)
First Nations reconciliation personified at Okanagan College

President Jim Hamilton’s foresight has opened post-secondary education doors for Okanagan College’s Indigenous students

A Summerland municipal employee has tested positive for COVID-19. (Summerland Review file photo)
Summerland municipal employee tests positive for COVID-19

Employee now self-isolating and recovering at home

Movie crews filmed a holiday parade in Summerland in July. The parade, filmed on Main Street in Summerland, is for the movie, The Christmas Yule Blog. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

A bus shelter in White Rock is emblazoned with an ad from B.C.’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. (Black Press Media files)
VIDEO: ‘Am I racist?’ campaign asks British Columbians to confront their unconscious biases

Signs asking British Columbians to think about racial injustice have been put up 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

Emergency crews respond to crash just before midnight on Trans-Canada Highway east of Salmon Arm. (File photo)
Two pick-up trucks collide head-on on Trans-Canada Highway near Salmon Arm

Police report drivers survive crash late on Nov. 29, taken to hospital

The missing snowmen were found down the road Monday after being removed from their rightful places Sunday, Nov. 29. (Contributed)
Missing snowmen go for an evening stroll in Okanagan

Large Mrs. Snowman cutout apparently went for a walk

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond speaks to a reporter in Vancouver on November 13, 2015. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
No evidence that B.C. ER staff played blood alcohol level game, but Indigenous racism widespread

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond releases findings of independent investigation

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News staff)
Kelowna break-in suspect arrested over weekend

The incident happened on Nov. 28 at approximately 4:40 a.m.

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Vehicle damaged on Nov. 27 on East Boundary Road in West Kelowna. (Photo - Brooke Woodman)
Man arrested after allegedly smashing vehicle windows and stealing in West Kelowna

A man was seen throwing rocks at vehicles on East Boundary Road in West Kelowna on Nov. 27

Lauren Shular shows the Apexico Tshirts she designed and is selling
UBC Okanagan student says ‘if can’t go to Mexico – head to Apexico’

Apex family have designed fun Tshirts that are flying off the cabin shelves

Most Read