Why is Ontario building a CLT factory so far from the forests?

Southern Ontario
Public Domain US Library of Congress

First they cancel the tree planting program in the north. Then this.

St. Thomas is in southwestern Ontario. It is so southern that 150 years ago if you were taking a train to Chicago you would go through it because it was shorter to go over the top of Lake Erie than to go under it. (The wonderful Michigan Central Station is still there and all restored.)

Southwestern Ontario has been farmland for all of those years too; the nearest working forest is a couple hundred kilometers away. So, logically, this is where the Province of Ontario is investing C$5 million in a factory making Cross-Laminated Timber. According to the Ontario Government press release, "This is a significant investment in the Ontario forestry industry, job creation, housing, innovation and technology, and the environment in the form of green building practices."

It will be operated by Element5, which has a CLT factory in Quebec. The Minister of the Environment, Jeff Yurek, who totally coincidentally is also the Member of Parliament for the riding that includes St. Thomas, says, "This investment will reduce carbon dioxide emissions and create jobs right here in Ontario and in St. Thomas, contributing to our goal of balancing a healthy environment and healthy economy."

The Minister did not tell us how much CO2 would be emitted shipping all the lumber from Northern Ontario to Southwestern Ontario and then back east to the Greater Toronto Area where it will all be used.

This is the same government that cancelled the annual C$4.7 million, 50 million tree planting program earlier this year to save money, much of which was going to be spent in Northern Ontario, where the trees are. According to the CBC,

Rob Keen, CEO of Forests Ontario, said since 2008 more than 27 million trees have been planted across Ontario through the program, which saved landowners up to 90 per cent of the costs of large-scale tree planting. "We certainly recognize that with climate change coming it's going to be more important than ever to have healthy, contiguous, large forests to be able to mitigate climate change and certainly adapt to climate change."

Dalston Lanes© Waugh Thistleton Architects

Here at TreeHugger, we love CLT and promote the idea of building out of wood. Our friends at Waugh Thistleton believe it can save the world. But you have to look at the entire picture; are the forests being sustainably harvested and replanted? Is the full carbon footprint being calculated honestly, including the transportation?

This sure smells like taking the money away from planting trees up north and sending it to the Minister's riding as far away from the forests as you can find in the entire province. But then this is Doug Ford's Ontario.

Why is Ontario building a CLT factory so far from the forests?
First they cancel the tree planting program in the north. Then this.

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