Wall decries changes to immigrant investor program

By Joe Couture, The StarPhoenix, February 13, 2014 - Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said he is "frustrated" with the federal government for cutting its immigrant investor program while giving Quebec special treatment.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander de f ended the changes and noted Quebec has played a unique role in immigration

for decades. Wall told reporters in Regina that the province supported building houses through the HeadStart on a Home program by accessing millions under the immigrant investor program, which had long been criticized for allowing rich foreigners to lend Canada money to get status more quickly.

Ottawa cut the program completely in Tuesday's federal budget, after halting new applications in 2012.

"You need to find out what's going on in places like Saskatchewan before you decide to cut a program based on the fact that you don't think it's working," the premier said.

"And had they done that, I think they would see that it works very well here. We're being responsible with the dollars."

Wall said he has "a grave concern that what's good enough for the rest of Canada is apparently not good enough for the province of Quebec," noting Quebec's immigrant investor program will continue.

"I'm not sure why, again, Quebec is going to continue to issue passports for immigrant investors while we cannot, but it is a Canadian passport, not a Quebec passport, so if they have that right, so should we," Wall said.

"I think the people of Saskatchewan are tired of examples where one province, the province of Quebec, is treated differently and has certain advantages in this case that are not available to the rest of the country."

Alexander said that despite Wall's assertions, the program didn't work.

Participants ended up with lower education and employment than immigrants arriving through other programs, and they reported less income - "highly paradoxical, given this was an investment program designed to bring affluent people to Canada," Alexander said.

He said the program was not creating jobs or bringing wealthy immigrants to live in Canada - and fraud and abuse were also big issues.

"There were people who applied on the program, received permanent residence and in some cases received citizenship, but through various machinations involving corporate consultants and lawyers, never actually resided in Canada for any length of time and never even intended to reside in Canada," he said.

Alexander said money from immigrant investors shouldn't go to governments, but rather to the private sector - and a new pilot program to be launched later this year will encourage that.

Regarding Quebec, the federal minister said that province has had sole responsibility for its own immigration programs since 1991, but he has been "extremely clear" with Quebec about issues with its immigrant investor program that are as bad, if not worse, than the federal program.

Quebec has followed Ottawa's lead on changes to other immigration programs, Alexander said. "The best thing we can do in this case is show leadership, eliminate abuse and fraud and launch a new pilot program to attract real investors to Canada to put larger amounts of money into the venture capital sector as soon as possible."

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