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

A man wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Vancouver on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
212 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

A total of 490 cases remain active; 15 in hospital

This is the third year Raymond Imbeau and Barbara Kitz have picked up cans in the backcountry and donated the proceeds to COSAR. (Central Okanagan Search and Rescue)
Kelowna couple cleans forests for Central Okanagan Search and Rescue

Raymond Imbeau and Barbara Kitz donated $3,200 to COSAR

Lights will be on display for the annual Candy Cane Lane in Rutland until Jan. 1. - Mackenzie Britton/Capital News
Kelowna’s Candy Cane Lane to celebrate a decade of holiday lights

The event will run from Dec. 1 to Jan. 1, 2021

The video was used for (KGH Foundation - YouTube)
Okanagan filmmaker, poet win at L.A. Film Awards

Spoken word artist Shane Koyczan wrote and filmmaker David Nault produced the commercial

The Mission will be opening a temporary winter shelter starting on Dec. 1. (Kelowna’s Gospel Mission)
Gospel Mission’s winter shelter opens in downtown Kelowna

The temporary winter shelter will be in the former Kelowna Daily Courier offices

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

Join Rob Dinwoodie and bandmates for a Cowboy Christmas, Dec. 11 and 12 at Vernon and District Performing Arts Center. Seating is cabaret style on the stage for an intimate concert. (Contributed)
North Okanagan cowboys go virtual for Christmas

Cowboy Christmas streamed Dec. 11-25

Vernon is getting in the Christmas spirit with many homes decorating with lights and extras. (Caitlin Clow - Morning Star)
Christmas lights tour mapped out by Vernon realtor

More than 20 of the community’s best lit houses make up annual tradition

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (PIxabay.com)
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

Salmon Arm RCMP say some patrons have been harassing local businesses over mask requirements. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
Police urge respect after Salmon Arm businesses report being harassed over mask rules

Wearing of masks in businesses and public spaces is currently mandated by the province

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Salmon Arm RCMP officers attended two public COVID-19 demonstrations held in Salmon Arm on Saturday, Nov. 28.  (File photo)
Organizer of Salmon Arm COVID-19 demonstration fined $2,000 by RCMP

Police said some participants weren’t aware of the public health order prohibiting gatherings

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: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Most Read