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

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum speaks at a press conference in August about provincial government approval of the city’s change to a municipal force, joined by councillors (from left) Mandeep Nagra, Allison Patton and Doug Elford. Members of the National Police Federation claim there is still no transition plan in place although Surrey RCMP’s contract with the city is due to end March 31.(File photo)
National Police Federation members slam Surrey police transition to Surrey Board of Trade

During virtual meeting, bargaining unit representatives say municipal force ‘not a done deal’

The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia’s (CFSEU-BC) Uniform Gang Enforcement Team (UGET) has arrested a man who was on the run for nearly a decade. (File photo)
9-year search for international drug trafficking suspect ends with arrest at YVR

Khamla Wong, charged in 2012, taken into custody Feb. 24 by BC-CFSEU

Pixabay image
Surrey council moves to update city’s telecommunication antennas policy

But councillor says health and safety protocols are nearly 40 years old

Eagle watchers are celebrating the first egg of the season, captured on video in South Surrey. (Hancock Wildlife Foundation photo)
LIVE VIDEO: South Surrey nesting eagles welcome first egg of the season

Parents ‘Sur’ and ‘Res’ to share incubating duties

Boosh Food founder Connie Marples (right) delivers some Boosh Food items to Christine Mohr, CEO of Options Community Services, in December, 2020. Boosh Food has just moved their operations to Cloverdale. (Photo: Moonraker PR)
Boosh Food moves to Cloverdale

‘Plant-based comfort food’ company moving to 65A Avenue

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

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

Shaelene Keeler Bell. (Facebook)
Candlelight vigil planned for Chilliwack mother missing for four weeks

Virtual event to ‘spread some light’ for 23-year-old Shaelene Bell of Chilliwack

Ashley Paxman, 29, is in the ICU after being struck by a vehicle along Highway 97 Feb. 18, 2021. She remains in critical condition. (GoFundMe)
Okanagan woman in ICU with broken bones in face after being struck by car

She remains in serious condition following Feb. 18 incident

The booklet roots present day activism in the history of racist policies, arguing the history must be acknowledged in order to change. (CCPA)
New resource dives into 150 years of racist policy in B.C.

Racist history must be acknowledged in order to change, authors say

The BC SPCA is offering many chances for school-aged kids to learn about animal welfare and other animal topics. Pictured here is Keith, a three-month-old kitten seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
From pets to wildlife, BC SPCA offers animal education programs geared to youth

BC SPCA offering virtual spring break camps, workshops and school presentations

Most Read