July 1st, 1867 witnessed the birth of the most just, most tolerant, most diverse, most compassionate, and most picturesque country in the world (but to be fair, I won’t make the claim that we have the best year-round weather!).
In 2017, just two years away, Canadians will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
I was glad to attend a special meeting of the Halton Hills Cultural Roundtable group at the Red Door Gallery in Georgetown on May 21st.
The Cultural Roundtable members are already beginning to make plans for a memorable community birthday bash for our country’s sesquicentennial.
Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong had also been invited. He gave an interesting presentation about the federal programs which have been launched to support community celebration projects in 2017.
He reminded all of us that not only will Canada be celebrating 150 years in 2017, but the founding provinces will be celebrating 150 years as well, as part of a united Canada.
Listening to this, in my mind I asked myself: “What is the Province of Ontario planning to do, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of its’ existence?”
What could the Province do?
I immediately remembered the County of Wellington’s Green Legacy programme, which was launched in 2004 to coincide with the County’s 150th anniversary. Through Green Legacy, the County promoted and organized volunteer community activities that planted 150,000 trees that same year.
Growing into an annual effort, Green Legacy has become the largest municipal tree planting programme in North America. It has led to the planting of over 1.8 million trees in just over ten years.
Why couldn’t Ontario follow the lead of the County of Wellington, take Green Legacy province-wide, with the goal of planting 150 million trees?
I did some research, and discovered that the Ministry of Natural Resources doesn’t seem to track or publicly report cumulative tree planting activities in Ontario. They should.
But as recently as seven years ago, apparently 92 million trees were planted in one year as part of the reforestation renewal process. Unfortunately, that number has diminished to nearly 50 million trees as of 2011/12, the most recent year for which numbers are available.
In addition, a group called Forests Ontario currently has planted 22 million trees since 2003, and has goal of reaching 50 million trees by 2025.
My suggestion would represent a dramatic increase in these efforts. I believe it can be done, but we would need leadership of the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
On June 25th, I spoke to Wellington County Council to thank them for their vision and leadership, and offer to work with them to urge the Government to take Green Legacy province-wide.
That would be a 150th anniversary celebration for the ages, as well as a lasting gift to future generations of Ontarians.
Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott welcomes your comments. He can be reached at 1-800-265-2366. His website address is www.tedarnottmpp.com.