Planting two billion trees in Canada will be a tall order

Canada has more than 78-million hectares available for 'canopy cover restoration potential.'

Journalist Peter Kuitenbrouwer holds a master of forest conservation from the University of Toronto.

In November, 1968, John Robarts, then premier of Ontario, planted a sugar maple tree at Queen’s Park in Toronto – the one billionth tree planted in Ontario. The province had planted these billion trees, mainly on private land, over a 60-year period, thanks to a network of provincially owned tree nurseries stretching from St. Williams Forestry Station on Lake Erie to Ferguson Tree Nursery near Ottawa. At their height, these nurseries pumped out tens of millions of seedlings a year, and distributed them to property owners for pennies apiece.

During this year’s election campaign, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met teen climate activist Greta Thunberg and joined the Climate Strike in Montreal, he promised a Liberal government will plant two billion trees over 10 years. This is a visionary pledge. New forests can soak up carbon and help us reach greenhouse-gas-reduction targets. Still, the Ontario experience illustrates the scale of Mr. Trudeau’s challenge. With its own nurseries, Ontario planted about 16 million trees a year. Mr. Trudeau wants to plant 200 million trees a year across Canada.

Sitka spruce, Canada’s tallest tree, can reach the height of Parliament’s Peace Tower. To reach Mr. Trudeau’s tree-planting target will require sitka-scale quantities of land, tree planters and trees.