Politics

O'Regan says 30 million trees to be planted this year, two billion by 2030

A Liberal campaign pledge to plant two billion trees by 2030 finally seems to have taken root. Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan announced Friday that 30 million trees will be planted this season out of the two billion his government promised to plant over the next 10 years during the 2019 federal election campaign.

Natural resources minister says number of trees planted will grow each year

The federal government says it still plans to plant two billion trees by 2030 to help sequester carbon. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

A Liberal campaign pledge to plant two billion trees by 2030 finally seems to have taken root. 

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan announced Friday that 30 million trees will be planted this season out of the two billion his government promised to plant over the next 10 years during the 2019 federal election campaign. 

That goal would see Canada plant an extra 200 million trees each year, which the government says will eventually help to sequester carbon.

To get two billion trees into the ground over a decade, around 33 million would have to be planted each month during each tree-planting season. Over nine years, that grows to about 37 million trees.

But the actual rollout of the program won't be as straightforward.

Because seedlings need time to grow and the project needs nursery space, land to plant and some sort of monitoring to ensure the trees survive, O'Regan said, the number of trees planted will grow progressively each year. 

A graph provided by his office shows his department expects to have planted 500 million trees by 2026, and then more than one billion in total by 2028.

"There'll be significant ramp-up," he said. "It takes time to get those seeds in place. This is a long-term play for us though, so it is well worth the wait." 

Tories say Liberals have no plan

The government has budgeted around $3 billion for the program, but the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) suggests the final price tag for the endeavour will be closer to double that.

A briefing note to the deputy minister of Natural Resources Canada about the discrepancy — released to The Canadian Press under federal access-to-information law — says the department will look to its planting partners to help fund the program. O'Regan's office confirmed that aspect of the plan. 

"The (PBO) report did not mention that the government will seek substantial cost-sharing by its partners, such as provinces and territories, cities and landowners, among others," the document reads. 

Conservative environment and climate change critic Dan Albas said the Liberal government has yet to provide details on how it's going to plant two billion trees over the decade.

"It's clear that the Trudeau Liberals have no plan," he said in a media statement Friday. "It took the Liberal government over a year before they even announced a plan to plant trees."

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