© Guardian photo
Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was in Charlottetown May 22.
Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney had some harsh words about the Ghiz government‚Äôs management of the Provincial Nominee Program Tuesday, calling it a ‚Äėserious failure.‚Äô
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 Island‚Äôs nominee program.
He said he fears P.E.I.‚Äôs mismanagement of the PNP may have compromised Canada‚Äôs reputation overseas when it comes to future immigration prospects for the country.
‚ÄúThis was a serious failure that was not just about the Island, it affected the integrity of our Canadian immigration system,‚ÄĚ Kenney said in an interview with The Guardian.
‚ÄúWe haven‚Äôt seen anything that bad in any other part of the country, at least to my knowledge. And I hope it hasn‚Äôt caused any reputational damage for Canada or for the Island overseas for prospective immigrants.‚ÄĚ
P.E.I.‚Äôs 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.‚Äôs program did not offer an active role to PNP investors.
Kenney said P.E.I.‚Äôs speedy nomination process in the summer of 2008 still leaves a bad taste in his mouth.
‚ÄúMost of these (immigrants) weren‚Äôt even planning to come here, most of them didn‚Äôt 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,‚ÄĚ Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney
‚ÄúTo this day, that irks me. I think that was an expression of bad faith,‚ÄĚ 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 Ghiz‚Äôs accusations and calling them ‚Äėcompletely false.‚Äô He said he wasn‚Äôt even made aware of the allegations until after department officials had forwarded them on to the Mounties.
‚ÄúOur job as the government of Canada is to defend the integrity of the Canadian immigration system. We don‚Äôt play politics in this. We put the country‚Äôs interests first,‚ÄĚ Kenney said.
‚ÄúMost of these (immigrants) weren‚Äôt even planning to come here, most of them didn‚Äôt 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.‚ÄĚ
Nonetheless, Kenney said he wants to put all these past issues behind him and try to ‚Äėwork positively‚Äô with the P.E.I. government toward improving immigration and retention rates in the province.
‚ÄúThe province has decided to work with us in reframing a more credible program and we‚Äôre committed to making that work,‚ÄĚ Kenney said.
‚ÄúThere‚Äôs no benefit in dwelling on mistakes that were made in the past. That‚Äôs a provincial issue and it‚Äôs for Islanders to decide how to consider that and respond to that.‚ÄĚ