It was with much fanfare that the Liberals promised during the last election that they would plant two billion trees by 2030. And yet, here we are over a year after this campaign commitment was made and not a single tree has been planted.
Not only that, but a recently released report by the Parliamentary Budget Office estimates that it will cost taxpayers almost double what the Liberal government said it would when they finally released their ‘plan’ for planting these trees in December.
Instead of the $3.16 billion that the Liberal government has budgeted, the Parliamentary Budget Office estimates the program could cost $5.94 billion – a difference of approximately $2.78 billion.
We also still don’t have specific details about how this program will be implemented, including specific timelines, logistics, or where exactly these new trees will be planted. Those who work in the forestry sector will know that planting trees in mountainous British Columbia is not the same as planting trees in the Prairies and these types of issues need to be considered.
With a year already lost, the Liberal government will now need to plant more than 222 million new trees a year to meet their promise. This works out to more than 608,000 trees every day. However, when you consider that the planting season in Canada is about 120 days a year, it is more likely that more than 1.85 million trees will need to be planted each day of a planting season in order for the Liberals to meet this goal.
No one is saying we shouldn’t be planting trees in Canada. In fact, at a recent appearance before the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, Derek Nighbor, President and CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada, highlighted the fact that the forestry sector plants approximately 600 million seedlings every year.
What is needed from the Liberals is a detailed plan based on substantive policy, not just another photo op or public relations exercise. It is also now clear from the Parliamentary Budget Office report that they will either have to plant a much smaller number of trees or they will have to at least double their budget for the program to meet their commitment of two billion trees.
This is just the latest example of how, when it comes to forestry and the forestry sector, the Liberals just don’t have a plan.
There’s no plan to tackle the softwood lumber agreement, there’s no plan to help our mills and loggers, there’s no plan to support our forestry workers. And now, there’s no real plan to plant two billion trees by 2030.
Our forestry workers deserve better. You and your families deserve better. You deserve a government that will show confidence in this vital sector so that it can thrive once again.
Bob Zimmer is the Member of Parliament for Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies.