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In September of 2019, the Trudeau Liberals, seeking reelection, announced an ambitious promise to plant 2 billion new trees in Canada by 2030 "to help fight climate change and reach net-zero emissions by 2050." The program, announced by then-Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, was supposed to create 3,500 seasonal jobs.
“Trees are a huge asset, providing shading and cooling,” McKenna said in October of 2019. “Our Party’s commitment to tree planting is an opportunity to get more trees planted where they are needed most.”
Trudeau also used the plan to take a jab at conservatives, with Trudeau saying “Doug Ford took an axe to Ontario’s tree planting programs and the seasonal jobs it supported." Trudeau said that in spite of Ford's cuts, his party "took a stand."
Far from being a useless feel-good proposal, experts agree that planting trees is one of the simplest yet most effective methods at fighting climate change. This is also a method which Canada, with her vast land resources, could lead the world in.
Then in September, it was revealed that the Liberals had not yet planted a single tree in support of this effort. According to Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan’s office, the government was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The government also said that they would be supporting businesses in Canada which already engage in replanting efforts.
On Monday, however, it was revealed further that the Liberals not only have not yet planted a single tree, but they do not even have a plan to supporting planting two billion trees, Blacklocks Reporter has reported.
Before the Commons Natural Resource Committee, MP Rachel Harder questioned Assistant Deputy Minister of Natural Resources Beth MacNeil “[what] is your plan in terms of getting these trees in the ground by 2030?”
“I do not have a detailed plan at this time,” replied MacNeil. "We are awaiting a budget." Harder described the lack of a plan as "shameful."
MacNeil continued by arguing that the private sector already plants 600 million new trees annually in Canada. “Canada is a world leader, as you know, in sustainable forest management,” MacNeil told the committee. “What that actually means is if you harvest a tree, you’re legally obligated to plant one.”
While it is correct that the private sector already engages in tree planting efforts, the government had promised to plant two billion trees in addition to the trees planted by the private sector. MacNeil said as much before the committee, saying “[it] is above the requirement and above the numbers that companies and provinces are already committed to planting.”
Canada already has one quarter of the world's remaining forests, 858 million acres, with over 318 billion trees across the nation. If the Liberal Party's tree-planting promise is a success, it is expected to account for one third of all trees planted in the coming decade.
The government would have to plant over 600,000 trees per day to reach their goal if they start by 2021.