CLT Plant Opening in St. Thomas, 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 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."

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."
credit: Waugh Thistleton Architects/ Photo Daniel Shearing

© Waugh Thistleton Architects/ Photo Daniel Shearing

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? And why would a government invest in a CLT plant at the same time that it stops planting trees?