The Manitoba Liberal Party believes it has the most ambitious election plan to combat climate change, vowing to plant millions of trees and make the province carbon neutral by 2030.
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont highlighted planks from his un-costed, 25-page green plan — first released in May — at the party's official campaign launch Tuesday in a St. Boniface park. He said some cost estimates of the green plan would be available later in the campaign.
"We have to give nature the space and time to regenerate. That’s what our plan does," he said. "The Manitoba Liberal plan for green growth and renewal is the boldest and most ambitious climate plan of any party in this provincial election."
Lamont said the Liberals would also re-establish a tree nursery for about $500,000; the Tory government chopped the Pineland Forest Nursery near Hadashville last year.
If elected, the Grits would provide seeds to citizens for free or at a low cost, encouraging each Manitoban to plant five trees. The overarching goal would be to have six million trees planted by 2023.
Other ideas outlined in the climate plan include converting the Red River Floodway to grasslands (following an award-winning proposal by architect Glenn Manning) and diverting organic waste from landfills, while looking at ways to convert it into fuel.
The provincial Liberals would keep the federal carbon pricing framework in place, but renegotiate with Ottawa about how the revenues are spent in Manitoba.
"Instead of suing the federal government, we’d negotiate with them," Lamont said, alluding to Tory Leader Brian Pallister's threatened lawsuit over the federal carbon tax.
"What we want to do is be able to take back control… so it’s not decisions that are being made for us in Ottawa."
Considered altogether, Lamont believes the ideas can help the province become carbon neutral within 10 years.
PC spokesman Braeden Jones claimed the Liberals were endorsing the Tories' climate and green plan, "which already pledges our intention to invest in afforestation programming."
In an emailed statement, he criticized the Liberals and the NDP for not protesting an escalating federal carbon tax.
Lamont underscored if environmental concerns aren't taken seriously by the government of the day, then none of the other commitments will matter. Still, he wouldn't single out the environment as his top priority this campaign, noting it's one of many key issues.
Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.