Bribery allegations about P.E.I. immigration program shake election campaign

The Canadian Press Staff ~ Daily Business Buzz
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Liberal candidates listen in as their leader, Robert Ghiz, outlines their party’s tourism platform Friday in West Point. With Ghiz are, from left, Gerard Greenan, Robert Henderson, Paula Biggar, Robert Vessey, Sonny Gallant, Neil LeClair and Pat Murphy.

Accusations of dirty politics and bribery surrounding a failed Prince Edward Island immigration program shook the province's election campaign at the midway point, but some say it won't change their votes on Oct. 3.

P.E.I. voters interviewed before the only televised leaders' debate of the campaign say they are more preoccupied with bread-and-butter issues, such as jobs, help for the province's fishermen or the cleanup of Charlottetown's harbour.

Prudence Green of Kingston said the immigration program won't affect how she votes.

"It's getting kind of dirty," she said. "It's not nice."

Barry MacTavish of Eldon said controversy surrounding the immigration program isn't new.

"I'd made my mind up before that anyway because that's been ongoing now for a while," he said. "They'll get to the bottom of it sooner or later, I guess. There's not much we can do about it."

The program surfaced as an election issue after the federal Immigration Department forwarded accusations of bribery that were levelled by three former employees of the province to the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency. The Mounties are considering whether to proceed with an investigation after one worker alleged she saw senior provincial officials accept cash that she believes was intended to fast-track immigration applications from China.

Premier Robert Ghiz has denounced the accusations as unfounded and dismissed the timing of them as dirty politics.

The renewed controversy surrounding the program, which has already been investigated once by the RCMP and was the subject of an auditor general's report, has given Conservative Leader Olive Crane a weapon to battle the Liberals with.

Ian Dowbiggin of the University of Prince Edward Island says the new allegations provided the highlight of Thursday's debate on an issue Ghiz's Liberal government failed to adequately deal with when it first came up in 2008.

"They didn't put the story to bed," said Dowbiggin, who teaches history. "They had the auditor general do a report and the auditor general's findings were very critical, but the provincial government really just went on from there thinking the whole issue had been closed, but it keeps coming back."

If people see debate around the immigration program as dirty politics, Dowbiggin said it could cause some voters who aren't solidly aligned with a party to stay at home on election day, which would help the Liberals in their bid for a second straight majority government.

"They didn't put the story to bed," Ian Dowbiggin of the University of Prince Edward Island

"That may in fact encourage some swing voters simply to say, 'A pox on both their houses, I'm not voting in this election,' so that would serve the interests of the Liberals."

The Provincial Nominee Program was a federal-provincial initiative in which the province nominated people for immigration to Canada in exchange for an investment of $200,000 in a local business. Immigrants were to pay a $25,000 deposit that would be returned after living in the province for one year.

Crane has kept the issue alive in the legislature for the past two years, but she took her most direct shot at the premier during the debate.

"You're a disgrace on the (Provincial Nominee) Program and my government will restore integrity once again," Crane said.

Crane also alleged that members of Ghiz's family benefited from the program, causing Ghiz to angrily reply: "Why individuals choose to slander my family is beyond me and I think it's very dirty politics."

Two of the women who made the bribery allegations about the program have also complained to the province's privacy commissioner after emails they sent to a cabinet minister were released by the Liberals during the campaign.

Ghiz said he doesn't know who released the emails and he will leave it to the privacy commissioner to investigate how they ended up in the hands of his party.

Dowbiggin said while the Conservatives may have gained some support as a result of the controversy surrounding the immigration program, he doesn't think it's enough to change the course of the election.

"I don't think it's going to catapult the Conservatives into government come election night, but it might affect a handful of close ridings and in that case it will prove to be a significant factor in a campaign that looked right from the beginning as if it could be a Liberal sweep," he said.



Organizations: RCMP, Canada Border Services Agency, University of Prince Edward Island Conservatives

Geographic location: P.E.I., Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown China Canada

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Recent comments

  • country boy
    September 27, 2011 - 11:25

    If this government gets back in watch out. All civil servants pay roll back by 5 %. Civil servants pension no longer indexed. This government led by Mr. Ghiz looks after the well heeled and throws everyone under the bus. They messed up the health care system although neither party wants to touch the 2 hospital scenario. The best thing voters can do is to make sure that the politicians don't qualify for a pension if they don't do their jobs. This PNP scandal should not be rewarded.

  • Ed Gallant
    September 27, 2011 - 10:41

    It looks like all these guys are Home Hardware Trainees. Could this be a sign of the times? Either that or Canadian Tire Trainees.

  • lilley
    September 27, 2011 - 08:56

    Mr. Ghiz, do the honourable and principled thing and open the "BOOKS" on this PNP file so we, the voters can make a decision on wheather or not maleasance has taken place. If you don't respond to do the right thing, voters are justified in concluding there is indeed mis-doing (guilt??) here.

  • Dying to Vote
    September 27, 2011 - 08:54

    All over the world people are dying for the right to vote. In this tiny Province every vote counts. Go VOTE!

    September 27, 2011 - 08:16

    Nova Scotia giving each immigrant a refund of $75,000.00 it should be the same here on P. E. I.

  • david
    September 27, 2011 - 07:56

    100081 PEI Inc???? if it is Ghiz's wife, his father-in-law and brother-in-law and they invested in the main accounting firm handling PnP funds. Then there is a criminal conflict of interest at work here. If not, then it is nothing but rumor. Release the PnP documents and end the controversy. If there is nothing to hide then why not?? Also, Minister Campbell said they are randomly investigating the funds used of 17% of the companies which received PnP money. WHY 17%??? it was all tax payer money, so why isn't 100% of it held to the proper diligence?? why is 17% accountability acceptable?

    • Head shaker
      September 27, 2011 - 13:53

      What is the difference between amour and libel?

  • UpperDunker
    September 27, 2011 - 07:49

    The Liberals have a long history of sleazy politics and mismanagement of the economy. Joe Ghiz was supposed to manage the economy like a careful corner store operator; but, he ended up spending like a drunken sailor on a spree. More debt for the province. Later mismanagement lead to broken contracts and the 7.5% cuts to civil servants; this while the ones in government got raises by changing their job descriptions. The PNP fiasco continues this inept and corrupt Liberal tradition.

  • Rollover
    September 27, 2011 - 06:25

    Much attention is given to the potential bribery part of the PNP disaster. There are also fraud charges which I believe the RCMP can prove if they cast their net wide enough. Companies were created for purposes of gaining a benefit then went bankrupt. Immigrants could not find the companies in which they were supposed to be involved. And the PNP payments have been and are being used to buy political support today. The RCMP should be able to prove fraud. I am confident that the RCMP and the Canadian Border Services will follow the money and this is eventually where we will get ourselves in a position to bring the Ghiz guys to justice. All of the right people are available to be pressured into the truth. Then justice will follow from there.

  • Hee Bee
    September 26, 2011 - 19:32

    Sylvia said it best. Just ask the new immigrants from the PNP program what it's like to live under Chinese rule? Or oppressed Iran? Or persecuted Egypt? Why DID the immigrants want to come to Canada in the first place people? BECAUSE OF OUR FREEDOM! Make PEI a GREEN island this summer.

  • wendell
    September 26, 2011 - 18:37

    Look I do appreciate hearing from Dowbiggin instead of that Peter McKenna fella. At least Ian is trying to be fair--Dowbiggin said while the Conservatives may have gained some support as a result of the controversy surrounding the immigration program, he doesn't think it's enough to change the course of the election----------He may even be right but not because most thinking and caring people are not reacting to this PNP issue. The Ghiz Grits are hard to overcome because they have about ten ridings ( Charlottetown and Summerside areas) bought and paid for thru PNP and the other ways GHiz is driving us another billion bucks in the hole. Do not stay home. If you think this all stinks then get out and vote against the Liberals. Try to play some role in slowing these destructive fools down. It is not a time to stay home. Get out to the polling station and if you want a fairer Island don't vote Liberal. I am voting for Crane. She has the courage and honesty we need. Ghiz is under the employ of unseen players who abuse the Island for their own benefit. I believe that with all of my heart.

  • Already Voted
    September 26, 2011 - 17:46

    I live in Olive's District and there was no way that I was going to vote for Olive Crane to get in as either a MLA or as Premier. Perhaps if Pat Binns was back leading the PC Party of PEI or somebody of his caliber I would have considered voting for the PCs.

  • upwest proud
    September 26, 2011 - 16:41

    Ghiz continues to mislead the island public, he has repeatedly said taxpayers would not have to pay for the pnp mess, politicians said the same in Nova Scotia, today the government had to add 30 million to the 38 million it has already cost them.....

  • The professor is usually wrong
    September 26, 2011 - 15:47

    This is the professor that is batting about .120 when it comes to politics on PEI. He should be informed that there are actually 5 parties on pei and there will be thousands of real people with real votes voting for these parties - in a democracy all votes count. I voted Liberal last time and usually vote Liberal - this time I am voting NDP. The man running for that party was at my door the other day and I told him he can count on our home supporting him. I must say I was leaning that way but he made a very good impression on both myself and my wife.

      September 27, 2011 - 04:38

      NOBODY has been to our door yet! So nobody on this gentle island had made any kind of impression on us so far. The only 'politician' at our door during the past several years was Mitchell Tweel and he promised sincerely to work hard for his constituents, so, on that occasion he got our vote!

  • Give Olive a Chance
    September 26, 2011 - 15:29

    "Crane also alleged that members of Ghiz's family benefited from the program, causing Ghiz to angrily reply: "My family did not benefit whatsoever­," Ghiz said. "Why individual­s choose to slander my family is beyond me and I think it's very dirty politics."" But Ghiz's family did benefit and Olive Crane spoke the truth. Think about that people - lies and deceit are dirty politics and Ghiz is the one doing it. I've voted Liberal for years and last Saturday I was honoured to take the opportunity to vote for Olive Crane for honest, ethical, accountable government. And you can too!

  • Jack
    September 26, 2011 - 15:26

    Liberals are the kind of people that will say they want to do something about addiction, yet come voting time the buy votes by giving booze to alcoholics..that is what you call dirty politics.

    • MEJ
      September 27, 2011 - 08:49

      @ Jack. Lest we forget the Tories who used to drive around with the bottles in their trunks on election day driving people to the polls!!

  • Bread and butter
    September 26, 2011 - 14:55

    Too bad Olive didn't know anything about any other issues in this election besides PNP. She has been a one issue politician for her term in the house. She cannot seem to get this solved so I cannot see her fixing issues that are on the table right now not the issue that is past. Right now the PCs are not the party to take over and run the Island or be a viable party in opposition. I need to hear the full plan for Health Care, budgets and education or any other of the real issue facing Islanders. You think the Liberals are scary now? Try them when they sweep and they know the pattern will be to vote them out next regardless?

  • Chelle Browne
    September 26, 2011 - 14:44 Court OKs $25m compensation deal in failed N.S. immigration program By THE CANADIAN PRESS | UPDATED 3:15 p.m. Mon, Sep 26 - 12:09 PM Five years after the Nova Scotia government took control of a problem-plagued Imigration Program, a court approved a settlement Monday that offers $25 million in compensation to Immigrants who say the program failed to deliver what it promised. Ward Branch, the lawyer leading a class-action lawsuit against the province, said the deal represents the largest settlement of its kind in Nova Scotia history. The program started in 2003 under the former Conservative government and was operated by Cornwallis Financial Corp. But the Tories assumed responsibility in 2006 and stopped accepting applications for the program's so-called investment stream after problems began to surface. (Read entire article at fron page of )

  • Gerry
    September 26, 2011 - 14:42

    @ Sylvia - totally agree with you.

  • LTJ
    September 26, 2011 - 13:53

    the honesty and openess of govt is important to me., and others. I think if theres nothing to hide then prove it. If its proven theres nothing behind allegations then what harm? In fact it would probably earn you more respect and votes. By deflecting it just makes what you say look murky and questionable imo.

  • Dress
    September 26, 2011 - 13:42

    I se you changed to a less formal dark dress of shirts and red ties.This informal dress was the way of the Conservatives. Do the Loberals not have any original ideas???Copy their announcements ,copy their dress.Desperate.Desperate...

  • Mr Pox
    September 26, 2011 - 13:25

    Ian Dowbiggin is wrong in equating a pox on both houses with staying at home. Believe it or not, there are other parties to vote for. I just voted in the Advance Poll for the NDP. I'm under no illusions. I know he won't win. But, my conscience is clear. The Liberals have shown themselves to be just as bad as the P.Cs that preceded them. All the money wasted on concerts and celebrities coming to the island, a Health PEI board consuming resources that could be spent on front line care, loaning money to the Homburgs and Irvings of this world, while we have no money for a catastrophic drug program, the environment continues to take a beating, and affordable housing for low income earners isn't even on the agenda. So, I've said a pox on both houses and voted for a party with principles...the NDP.

  • Observer
    September 26, 2011 - 13:15

    I am a Liberal, but I did changed my vote this time!

    September 26, 2011 - 13:11

    The Mounties are CONSIDERING whether to proceed with an investigation... ?????

  • Smiley
    September 26, 2011 - 12:54

    Blue skies, nothing but Blue skies do I see;)

  • Sylvia
    September 26, 2011 - 12:48

    Citizens living in countries under a dictatorship are sacrificing their lives in order to bring democracy to their country and to be able to vote freely without intimidation. All we have to do in Canada is go to a poll and mark a ballot. We're even given a choice of voting in advance or on election day. I think that anyone who can't make the effort to vote doesn't have the right to call themselves a Canadian. There are 4 parties to choose from and I wouldn't think of not voting. We voted today in advance poll. My Dad was a veteran of WW1, served in France & at Vimy Ridge as a gunner, and gave up his youth for 5 years. By not voting, we are dishonouring all the men & women who have served and are still serving in army, air force, and navy, many who have lost their lives in service. I urge everyone to vote, no matter how you choose to vote. It's a privilege and not one to be taken for granted.

      September 26, 2011 - 14:31

      Hear! Hear!!

  • Good times
    September 26, 2011 - 12:41

    Barry MacTavish of Eldon said "They'll get to the bottom of it sooner or later, I guess. There's not much we can do about it." --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- You could vote for a party that doesn't promote sketchy programs like the PNP.

    • MadMac
      September 26, 2011 - 17:57

      Alot of people forget that the PNP started with the Tories. Currie and Bagnall are pretty quiet now, I wonder why....

  • Lance
    September 26, 2011 - 12:36

    "....not much we can do about it." ....??? Yes, we can do a lot about it. Go Vote them out of office. Anybody but Ghiz. That is what we can do. But we have to Vote. Show them we can do something about it.

  • mceachern
    September 26, 2011 - 12:33

    No Leader should ever destroy PEI's reputation like the PNP has. Ghiz needs some nursery time and grow up. Our immigration foreign capital resources have been substantially destroyed for everyone including both parties.

    • beeper
      September 26, 2011 - 13:51

      Regardless of the methodological approach in dealing with PNP it's kind of like a ( pork barrel party), it continues to be a political nightmare for the Grits! However I'm still voting red I need my road paved.