Local MPP Ted Arnott wants to take Wellington County’s Green Legacy program province-wide in celebration of Ontario’s 150th anniversary.
With the province and nation set to celebrate 150th anniversaries in 2017, Arnott, who took his proposal to Wellington County council on June 25, wants to see the celebration involve the planting of 150 million trees.
“Imagine a province-wide effort to plant 150 million trees to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Ontario,” he said.
In 2004 Wellington County set up the Green Legacy program to plant 150,000 trees to celebrate the county’s 150-year anniversary.
That idea has grown to over a million trees planted in Wellington by community partners, making it the largest municipal tree planting program in North America.
Arnott pointed out that not only did a confederated Canada begin on July 1, 1867, but on that same date, the province of Ontario came into being as part of the new federation.
“My immediate thought, of course, was, ‘What is the province doing to celebrate its own 150th anniversary, in two years time?’ The first thing I that popped into my mind was they’re celebrating by selling off Hydro One and putting beer in the grocery stores,” said the Conservative Wellington-Halton Hills MPP.
Turning serious, Arnott said his next thought involved replicating Green Legacy on a larger scale.
“Imagine an invitation to every community group, service club, school board, church, municipality, conservation authority, and so on, the private and public sectors alike, indeed, every organization that seeks to do good works in the province, and every resident of Ontario who cares about the environment and greenhouse gas emissions and global warming and the planet we leave to the coming generations …
“Imagine city residents leaving the GTA for a weekend, coming to small town, rural and northern Ontario to help out. Inviting them all to help out with an organized and administered ‘Ontario Green Legacy.’”
Noting the 150 million tree target might seem daunting to some, Arnott noted, “I’m sure Scott (CAO Scott Wilson) and (former warden) Brad Whitcombe heard some expressions of doubt when together, they conceived the original idea of the Green Legacy.”
However Arnott suggested counting reforestation efforts by the Ministry of Natural Resources and replanting required of the forestry industry could give the project a head start with numbers in the tens of millions.
“I see no reason why reforesting shouldn’t be counted, as part of our effort to achieve our overall goal,” he stated.
“Could we do it? Could we actually plant 150 million trees in one year?” Arnott asked.
“My belief is we could, if the lessons learned here in the county with Green Legacy were to be employed across the province.”
If the county agreed, Arnott said “we could work together to approach the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry and the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, working with Perth-Wellington MPP Randy Pettapiece, and get the province on board, for a 150th anniversary celebration that’s also a gift to the generations to come.”
“I think that’s just an amazing opportunity for us to work with Ted and Randy and get that going,” responded Warden George Bridge.
Council authorized staff to compile a report on how the program could be implemented.