© Guardian photo
Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was in Charlottetown May 22.
Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney had some harsh words about the Ghiz governmentâs management of the Provincial Nominee Program Tuesday, calling it a âserious failure.â
Kenney was in Charlottetown Tuesday to hold roundtable meetings with businesses to discuss economic development and immigration issues, but sat down with The Guardian to discuss the controversial PNP.
He pulled no punches in his censure of the Islandâs nominee program.
He said he fears P.E.I.âs mismanagement of the PNP may have compromised Canadaâs reputation overseas when it comes to future immigration prospects for the country.
âThis was a serious failure that was not just about the Island, it affected the integrity of our Canadian immigration system,â Kenney said in an interview with The Guardian.
âWe havenât seen anything that bad in any other part of the country, at least to my knowledge. And I hope it hasnât caused any reputational damage for Canada or for the Island overseas for prospective immigrants.â
P.E.I.âs Provincial Nominee Program has been shrouded in controversy since the fall of 2008. The program offered permanent Canadian residency to immigrants who invested between $105,000 and $200,000 on P.E.I., some of which went into an Island company. It was established to encourage immigration to the province by attracting foreign nationals interested in taking an active role in local businesses.
Problems arose when the Ghiz government ramped the program up in the summer of 2008 and pushed through as many immigrant nominations as it could after the federal government announced it was changing its rules to disallow the way P.E.I. was investing immigrant monies.
The federal government required nominated immigrants to take an active, day-to-day role in the companies they invested in. P.E.I.âs program did not offer an active role to PNP investors.
Kenney said P.E.I.âs speedy nomination process in the summer of 2008 still leaves a bad taste in his mouth.
âMost of these (immigrants) werenât even planning to come here, most of them didnât stay here. This was being promoted by crooked immigration consultants overseas as a fast and easy way to get into Canada and that affected the integrity of our national program. So to suggest that we should ignore that, I think that would be peculiar,â Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney
âTo this day, that irks me. I think that was an expression of bad faith,â he said.
The PNP eventually made national headlines during the provincial election last fall, when Citizenship and Immigration called in the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency to probe allegations of bribery and fraud it received regarding the P.E.I. PNP from three former public servants.
At that time, Premier Robert Ghiz accused the federal department of political interference during an election.
Kenney brought this up Tuesday, taking issue with Ghizâs accusations and calling them âcompletely false.â He said he wasnât even made aware of the allegations until after department officials had forwarded them on to the Mounties.
âOur job as the government of Canada is to defend the integrity of the Canadian immigration system. We donât play politics in this. We put the countryâs interests first,â Kenney said.
âMost of these (immigrants) werenât even planning to come here, most of them didnât stay here. This was being promoted by crooked immigration consultants overseas as a fast and easy way to get into Canada and that affected the integrity of our national program. So to suggest that we should ignore that, I think that would be peculiar.â
Nonetheless, Kenney said he wants to put all these past issues behind him and try to âwork positivelyâ with the P.E.I. government toward improving immigration and retention rates in the province.
âThe province has decided to work with us in reframing a more credible program and weâre committed to making that work,â Kenney said.
âThereâs no benefit in dwelling on mistakes that were made in the past. Thatâs a provincial issue and itâs for Islanders to decide how to consider that and respond to that.â