The County of Wellington’s Green Legacy Programme is the inspiration for Ontario’s Green Leaf Challenge, the Province’s new tree planting initiative, says Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott.
On March 28, the Government announced the launch of Ontario’s Green Leaf Challenge, with the goal of planting millions of additional trees in 2017 to mark Ontario’s 150th anniversary within Confederation.
“This initiative is inspired by the County of Wellington’s Green Legacy Programme, which is the largest municipal tree planting program in North America,” Mr. Arnott told MPPs in a statement in the Ontario Legislature on April 5. “Working with community partners, over two million trees have been planted in the County since 2004. This year, they plan to plant an additional 163,000 trees, which will help make our air cleaner and help to fight climate change.”
Mr. Arnott gave credit to County Staff and Council for their vision and leadership.
“I want to commend the County of Wellington Staff, in particular Gary Cousins, Mark Van Patter and Rob Johnson, for their stewardship with Green Legacy,” Mr. Arnott said. “I also want to thank past Warden George Bridge and current Warden Dennis Lever for their leadership. We should also acknowledge the county’s CAO, Scott Wilson, and former Warden, the late Brad Whitcombe, who together initiated the County’s Green Legacy Programme.”
Working closely with the County, Mr. Arnott had been persistently pushing the Provincial Government for almost two years to take the County’s Green Legacy Programme province-wide, as a way to celebrate Ontario’s 150th anniversary as a Province within Canada.
“In May 2015, I attended a meeting in Georgetown to discuss how we might celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary. It struck me that a great way to do this would be to take the County of Wellington’s Green Legacy Programme province-wide, with the goal of massively expanding our tree planting efforts as a community-building exercise, as well as getting people involved to help address the challenge represented by climate change,” Mr. Arnott recalled. “Since then, working with our municipal partners, we have been pushing the government to establish an Ontario Green Legacy Programme.”
On October 22, 2015, the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed a resolution brought forward by Mr. Arnott, calling on the Government to establish an Ontario Green Legacy Programme. Mr. Arnott then continued to repeatedly follow up with the Government, in an effort to convince them to implement the programme.
The idea of an Ontario Green Legacy Programme has had widespread support. It was endorsed by wide range of groups including the County of Wellington, the Town of Halton Hills, the David Suzuki Foundation, NeighbourWoods on the Grand, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, Citizens’ Climate Lobby Canada, and the Professional Foresters Association, as well as Georgetown community volunteer Laurent Thibeault.
“I urge the government to actively promote Ontario’s Green Leaf Challenge. We can do this creatively and cost-effectively through social media, by reaching out directly to possible partners, by advertising in community newspapers and on their websites and by MPPs holding events,” Mr. Arnott suggested. “Let’s work together to build the promise of the future in Ontario.”
While he was speaking in the Legislature, Mr. Arnott had a white pine seedling on his desk that Natural Resources and Forestry Minister Kathryn McGarry had given him the previous week.
Afterwards, Mr. Arnott thanked the Minister for adopting the principle of his resolution as Government policy.
“I appreciate the Minister’s willingness to listen and recognize the County of Wellington’s outstanding leadership,” Mr. Arnott concluded.