Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to plant two billion trees over the next decade — a promise he is not likely to keep. Environment Commissioner Jerry DeMarco said Cabinet could only plant two billion trees with provincial help.
“They need to concentrate much more on results,” DeMarco testified at the Commons natural resources committee. “This is a theme of a lot of our reports. They have to be realistic with their programs.”
The Liberal Party, in its 2019 election platform Forward: A Real Plan For The Middle Class, proposed to plant two billion trees “to clean our air and protect our communities.”
“This will help create 3,500 seasonal jobs in tree planting each year,” read the document.
Commissioner DeMarco told Natural Resources Canada on June 13 the feds were far from meeting their target. To date, Ottawa has only planted 28.9 million trees, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.
After two years, Ottawa has planted only 4% of its 2 billion tree benchmark. Trudeau promised to plant 30 million trees in 2021, followed by another 60 million in 2022.
As of 2022, 94 deals with private and public partners struck out. Only 23 have reached completion as of October.
“It fell well short,” said DeMarco. “There is no solution to climate change and terrestrial biodiversity loss that does not include forests.”
According to Blacklock’s Reporter, the environment commissioner expects Ottawa will only plant 76.2 million trees (3.8%) by 2030.
Auditor Kimberly Leach admitted the federal government would only plant two billion trees with help from other levels of government.
“Given the number of trees planted so far, this program is unlikely to succeed unless significant changes are made.”
In 2022, Ottawa pursued agreements with provinces to plant trees and reach program targets.
“Provinces are the group that [will] plant the most trees,” she said. However, Cabinet and most provinces have yet to sign tree-planting contracts.
Leach said the provinces and territories would need to plant about 70% of the trees for the program to meet its targets without delay.
“The department designed the ‘two billion tree’ program with the expectation that provinces and territories would use 67.5% of all program funds to plant 1.34 billion trees; this constitutes a major program risk,” DeMarco wrote in Planting Two Billion Trees.
According to Blacklock’s Reporter, Québec planted the most trees of all provinces (14 million), followed by B.C. (10.5 million), Alberta (1.6 million), New Brunswick (1.1 million), Ontario (925,000), Manitoba (257,000), Saskatchewan (145,000), Newfoundland and Labrador (67,000), Nova Scotia (37,000) and Prince Edward Island (5,000).
By 2027, the commissioner said Canada would need to plant 350 million seedlings yearly, with the program likely to go 88% over budget.
A February 15 Inquiry Of Ministry tabled in the Commons pegged the program costs at $3.16 billion over ten years. The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) now expects those costs to be $5.94 billion.
The commissioner noted that Canada has 895 million acres of forest, with over 600 million trees planted annually under Crown licenses with forestry companies. From 2007 to 2017, timber companies and provinces planted 5.6 billion trees, nearly triple the federal plan.