The Manitoba government is defending an immigration program that required business immigrants to pay a deposit of $75,000, then invest a further $150,000 in the province, even though a recent report said only 20 per cent met that obligation.
The government report said in 2010-2011, 336 applicants were approved but just 67 met the minimum investment obligation.
The program’s former manager, Randy Boldt, said immigrants are essentially buying their way into Canada and then walking away from their responsibilities.
“I would rate it [as] completely failing, utterly disastrous,” said Boldt, now an independent immigration consultant.
“It’s impossible to think of a program working worse than that.”
Progressive Conservative immigration critic Bonnie Mitchelson hammered Premier Greg Selinger’s NDP government over the report during question period on Wednesday.
“Why [would he] possibly call a 20 per cent success rate a success?” she said.
Nathalie Gautier, who owns a bakery on Main Street in Winnipeg, moved to Manitoba from France about a year a half ago as a skilled labourer through the provincial nominee program.
Gautier said becoming a permanent resident was a dream come true, and she didn’t simply “buy” it.
“We are lucky to be here and we have to work for it,” she said.
The current director of the provincial business nominee program, Rick Zebinski, admitted that since 2000, 357 people haven’t met their obligations under the agreement.
But he said the program has brought in nearly $200 million in investments to the province.
“Sometimes we’re not right,” he said. “But overall the economic impact of the program is significant.”
Government officials said it’s complicated by the fact it’s a two-step process: immigrants must first be nominated by the province, then approved by the federal government — a process that can take years.
The province said 60 per cent of those who were fully approved for the program met their investment obligations.
The auditor general has reviewed the program and is expected to release a report in mid-January.
December 5, 2012