PNP companies can be named, court rules

Teresa Wright
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The CBC won an appealed of a decision of P.E.I.'s freedom of information and protection of privacy commissioner that would have kept secret the names of those who received money through the Provincial Nominee Program, also known as PNP

The names of corporations that received Provincial Nominee Program funds can be released, the Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The ruling came as a result of an appeal by the CBC of a 2010 ruling by then privacy commissioner Judy Haldemann in which she denied requests to release the names of companies that benefited from the controversial PNP program.

The CBC argued Haldemann erred on several points in her decision, including the assumption that harm would be incurred by the PNP businesses in being identified as beneficiaries of this program.

In his 28-page decision released Friday, Supreme Court Justice Wayne Cheverie disagreed.

“(Haldemann’s) decision to uphold IIDI’s refusal to disclose the corporate names indefensible upon the facts of law and therefore not reasonable,” Cheverie wrote in his decision.

In her decision, Haldemann said she received hundreds of letters from PNP companies that spoke of their fear of social and financial repercussions from being outed as PNP recipients.

Haldemann said she was compelled by the pathos in these letters and said she was persuaded the companies would indeed suffer significant harm.

Cheverie says her conclusions “amount to nothing more than possibility, conjecture or speculation.”

“There is nothing in the record to support a finding the third parties would suffer any harm, let alone significant harm, and therefore this conclusion drawn my the commissioner is also unreasonable.”

The CBC’s appeal was not completely successful, however. It also was fighting to have the number of PNP investment units each company received to be included with the list of business names.

The privacy commissioner ruled in 2010 releasing this information would reveal financial information of the third party companies, which is one of the exceptions that allow the withholding of information in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIPP) Act.

As part of the initial approval process, a company had to demonstrate a specific level of financial viability in order to be eligible to receive PNP investments.

Haldemann ruled the number of units a business received could therefore reveal financial information and the level of pre-existing assets of a the company, since this information forms the basis of their approval for PNP units.

Cheverie agreed with this ruling.

“My review… supports the commissioner’s finding that the disclosure of the number of units would indeed transgress the prohibition against disclosure of commercial or financial information,” Cheverie wrote.

“While I appreciate the CBC’s argument that it was not seeking the financial information upon which the granting of the unit was based, the commissioner’s conclusion on this was reasonable.”

The ruling could still be appealed by the provincial government.

 

 

At a glance

- The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) offered expedited Canadian visas to immigrants who invested $200,000 on P.E.I., some of which went into an Island company.

- It was established to encourage immigration to the province.

- Problems arose when the province ramped the program up in 2008 and pushed through as many PNP applications as it could after the federal government announced it was changing its rules to disallow the way P.E.I. was investing the immigrant monies.

- The auditor general investigated the PNP in 2009 and found numerous examples of rules broken or sidestepped by program directors and senior officials.

- 1,423 businesses received units under the PNP and the number of actual investment units matched totaled 3,374

 

twright@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

Organizations: CBC, Supreme Court

Geographic location: Iceland

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Recent comments

  • pnp list
    November 05, 2012 - 07:32

    i wonder who got pnp units in the law offices around town ?

  • Leung
    November 04, 2012 - 12:18

    Does anyone if PnP recipients had to pay taxes on the "free money". I mean it was often not applied to the business but used to buy personal things like Corvettes, Boats, Harley's,Cottages,Vacations, etc, etc, so it should be personal income would it not ???????Also how much HST revenue would this created? This whole programs seemed more like a lottery where you could buy a winning ticket if you knew the right people. It may be this perception of unfairness and back room deals that bothers people the most.

  • Bertie
    November 04, 2012 - 10:52

    An observation after the failed coup at the PC convention. The typical back room tyrants are really losing their touch. These type of guys used to be masters of corruption and cover up. They used to seem to have good legal advice to use against their own people. And now they cannot even construct a patronage scam that is fool proof. The advisors of Ghiz assured every body this racket was thoroguh and that names would be concealed. They were wrong. They used to be so good at making corrupt acts appear legal. Interesting times.

  • NoPain NoGain
    November 03, 2012 - 16:05

    There is really no shame in receiving PNP. The shame is only reflected in the greed by those who were granted several units. Heard of a business who received 51 units but no confirmation that it was true. Wish we were able to learn HOW MUCH each company received. In a shroud of secrecy, it makes it a bitter pill to swallow when I am asked to pay my taxes every April!

  • Pius from BC
    November 03, 2012 - 13:18

    PEI got the money. Ontario and Alberta got the immigrants.

    • Lookin' for work. . .
      November 03, 2012 - 16:40

      First, Pius my lad, the immigrants we need; the PNP scam we could do without. Second, PEI didn't get the money, it appears that only a few people got the money. And while it looks like we may not know just yet how much those few got, at least we may know who got it. Sure not me, or anybody I know.

    • Leung
      November 04, 2012 - 12:06

      Harper changed the rule to require 2 yr residence in province of entry. Before that yes, money came into PEI lawyers/Immigration facilitators and new comers vanished into Toronto-Vancouver and few knew of such PnP programs. It was not until the rules were changed that 1) new faces were seen in the area, 2) provinces rushed through claims before the deadline and raised public suspicion. Otherwise, the puppy mill of new immigrants would have ran without notice. I suppose legitimate business have nothing to worry about but those who created paper shell companies to milk the program then dissappear to central america may have some concerns should CRA Auditors take interest.

  • kyle
    November 03, 2012 - 13:05

    JohnG says, "When the Tories were in they started the whole mess. The Liberals just ramped it up. Neither party wants to release the facts." Pure BS. It was a federal program that the previous government participated in minimally. But Ghiz & the Gang saw it as an opportunity to run up the Jolly Roger and go on a pirating expedition. The shear audacity of the scope of their greed caused Ottawa to revamp the program. The Binns government cautiously processed a small number of desirable immigrants. But Ghiz & the Gang sold the Canadian birthright to any with enough pieces of eight to be passed out to cronies. In more rural terms you are equating a frugal housewife who sells a dozen or two eggs at the kitchen door with a big box store.Yeah, they are both retailers. There the comparison ends. What you are transparently trying to do is to defend the indefensible by tarring Pat Binns with the actions of the Ghiz looters by conflating the two. Your attempt is in itself an admission of Liberal guilt in this matter. You cannot justify so you smear. You are like a whore claiming virtue because all women are whores. They are not and your arguement is pure libel too.

  • don
    November 03, 2012 - 11:32

    if the government appeals this then it just proves the there is crooked work in the PNP program.

  • Wayne MacKinnon
    November 03, 2012 - 11:10

    Justice Cheverie's ruling is just another example of what has gone with the political process on PEI. Islanders need to change how our judges are appointed. First they are lawyers,become politicians,then appointed to the Bench by the political party they represented. Does anyone else see a conflict of interest here? Our judges need to be selected by the the taxpayers of PEI,whom I may add are paying their salary. The voters of PEI can then choose the best candidate from the people who are applying for the job. This will hold our Judges accountable to the people who paying their wages. This ruling was made to appease the Islanders who desired the truth,but fails to give the rest of the story. What individuals received more units then the PNP Program allowed,where was this money invested,who did it benefit? When the units are found to be held in Family Trusts,this will only serve to demonstrate the level of corruption rampant on PEI.

  • One of the Great Unwashed
    November 03, 2012 - 10:32

    Teresa, would you please connect the dots? This is a favourable court decision that should allow you the freedom to get this horrendous scandal to see the light of day.

  • Facts of lie . . . phfff.
    November 03, 2012 - 09:30

    Here's an interesting fact. As of today at 10:39, it's 1431 days, 8 hours, 19 minutes and a few odd seconds until 7:00 p.m. Monday, October 5, 2015. Now, Mr. Ghiz clearly implies that Islanders should hold our breath for that length of time and then limit our democratic entitlements to that particular moment. Really? What do you think? PNP. the absurd Plan B, the debatable HST that was never debated, bootleg tourism contracts, embarrassing hotel and other million dollar fiascoes . . . Yeah, if I were a ghizite (there is no real Liberal party on PEI) I'd think the same way.

  • John Smith
    November 03, 2012 - 09:25

    Minister Kenny suspended 2 PNP categories - Entrepreneuers and Investors. PNP management renamed them into Business Impact and Work Permit. Accountanting firms "creat" businesses for Chinese and write business plans for them for $5,000. Both - Business Impact and Work Permit applicants will invest $150,000 and $100,000 deposit + $25,000 Good Faith deposit and + $ 20,000 Language deposit. NO CHANGES!!!!!!! Hello Blake Doyle, good job!!!! Double check online under PEIPNP program. The new name - the same game!!! PNP staff is Hong Kong now interviweing Chinese. Be ready for a new scandal! And new "UNITS"..........and a new list of the companies........

    • Where's the Fifth Estate?
      November 03, 2012 - 09:46

      Where's the Fifth Estate when we need them? If every 10th Islander started to bring this fiasco to there attention, would they investigate? Here's our chance - highlight this, right click and let's see what happens: http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/content/contact/

    • Leung
      November 03, 2012 - 11:09

      True and dissappointing indeed. The sad story behind the scenes is some of those coming here never had the $200,000+ expenses per person to get here. They had to mortage their childrens future by borrowing from questionable asian loaners and businesses that trap them in Indentured servitude. Those PnP folks sitting on the benches on University would be lucky to save $1000 in Hong Kong not $200,000. The Real story lies in the dream of being a Canadian and what people will do or sacrifice to get here. I'd be ashamed to take the tainted PnP money but thats just me. If someone did participate in a public owned, government run program then sure names must be disclosed. Otherwise, do all you're investments privately not publically.

  • XComa
    November 03, 2012 - 08:57

    Why shouldn't Public information be released to the Public? It never made sense to withhold this information... A lot of people are complacent and do not care. They are good citizens and do not usually 'Rock the Boat'.. Sheepeople... Others want to know and make more informed decisions. Myself for example; I will be buying as much as possible Out of Province and likely Out of Country because the businesses in Charlottetown and PEI are supporting and standing behind HST. I am sure people will be making similar decisions with the new PNP information. It is their Right to Know and their Choice...

  • Hey, I see that smirk . . .
    November 03, 2012 - 08:48

    To be reasonable, I'm going to give it a couple of weeks. Then, I'll be asking the appropriate authorities for official records that show how much we had to pay our government lawyers to represent "us" in this case. What's your prediction? Will I get quick results via routine disclosure? Or, will I get equivocation, avoidance and stonewalling? Remember now, this is the self-proclaimed "transparent" government we voted in to represent us. Good grief! If I asked any other institution for records that accounted for my funds - bank, oil company, investments, anything, I'd either get it via on-line instantly or within a reasonable amount of time. But I get ahead of myself, perhaps I'll get the data without delay . . . hey now, I see that cynical smirk!

  • JohnG
    November 03, 2012 - 08:41

    When the Tories were in they started the whole mess. The Liberals just ramped it up. Neither party wants to release the facts. Just like public accounts meetings. The Tories are complaining just like the Liberals did when the Tories were in power. The other parties just jump up and down protesting everything. What in the heck are we to do?T

    • SAILOR
      November 03, 2012 - 09:40

      Keep the people in power in check by sending them letters, protesting and demanding more of journalists.

    • Just Duke Reel
      November 03, 2012 - 10:27

      Yeah the Tories had a hand in PNP at the start.Jean Chretien was PM when the current deal was set up. It is no accident that Mike Currie is openly on the attack against Olive Crane. He has an interest in covering up as much as some other big Tories inlcuding almost every single other one identified in this attack so far. But it is the Liberals under Ghiz and Brown who did the huge grab and it is they that have fought to keep it as a more or less secret program. The common goal of both red and blue PNPers is to launch the appeal and to drive out Olive before the appeal is done. A new Tory leader could then lead the blue side of the cover up from the sidelines. It seems that electing NDPers to the Leg. is the only way to catch these guys up and ward off such shady dealings in future. Even some of Oiive's boys are looking rather shaky on PNP. She won no peace through those recruitments.Apparently. PNP should teach us once and for all is that we have to break up the two party system in PEI. Once and for all.I see no other way.

  • Sylvia
    November 03, 2012 - 08:11

    I'd like to see the names of all PNP recipients and how much money they got. It doesn't matter which party they belong to, whether it's Liberal or PC, all the names should be made public. As a provincial PC member, I have no problem with PCs being named. It would be interesting to know if some of these are the ones who want to get rid of Olive as leader.

  • Bertie
    November 03, 2012 - 07:59

    That Richie Brown is quite the guy. He was busy a few years back as PNP Minister helping Robbie Ghiz pass around the re-election war chest millions to the big boys and now he is right there chairing the food drive. That's our Richie!!!!!!!

  • voter
    November 03, 2012 - 07:51

    i am waiting to see which LAWYERS are related to which recipients-- a conservative lawyer in the news lately will be of special interest

  • Checker
    November 03, 2012 - 07:50

    I would like to make one correction to Ms Wrights story line. Problems arose for the PNP when the public realized it was being run quietly under the table for the benefit of a select few and completely contrary to Citizenship Policy. The national law enforcement and security agencies who are charged with the security and protection of the nation, were not even advised that the Provincial Government was bringing unvetted immigrants to Canada through the back door. No...problems began for the PNP when it was taken over by a privileged few as a cash cow. We won't soon forget that over $525 million disappeared through this program and of that $144 million went to the legal and consulting firms in Charlottetown. Politician received PNP money and did not consider it to be a conflict of interest. Some recipients are reported to have received over 20 PNP units. Corruption and favouritism at its best. It was also a complete failure of our political system and those who hold public office for their role is to protect the public interest . In this case, many of those entrusted with public confidence were the major culprits. The PNP for PEI was nothing short of political dishonesty arrogance, corruption and a sense of entitlement for a select few. The push to vamp up the program in 2008 was nothing more than a last ditch attempt to suck more money from the immigrants. Remember too, not one cent went to the consolidated revenue fund of PEI.

  • hurts like hell
    November 03, 2012 - 07:23

    Supreme Court Justice Wayne Cheverie didn't decide to enforce the law, the law forced Supreme Court Justice Wayne Cheverie's decision. Lest we forget, Islanders tax dollars were used to pay lawyers to fight this law - and to fight US from gaining access to OUR INFORMATION! Doesn't it make you want to cry, or vomit? Islanders don't even need this information to ask the question: Why does this government want to hide so much from us? Every time Islanders try to exercise democracy we're planb'd in the back of the head. And, for those of us that can still feel something, it hurts like hell.

  • FOLLOWED WITH INTEREST
    November 03, 2012 - 07:16

    Watch an immediate appeal by Government, this decision will identify companies or non existant companies to be exposed. Many lawyers and accountants are on the run today, the ones involved should be exposed, investigated, Lawyers disbarred and Accountants licences revoked, than and only than Justice will be done, involving this total Fraud,Cover ups and Thefts of Taxpayers money.Watch how they play this out for further protection, no further appeal will be successful as Justice Wayne Cheverie looked into this extensively and ruled on points of law, any appeal will not touch points of law. The jig is up for all of those involved. CBC should print these names a.s.a.p. What Halderman did was just as Ghizzy told her to do, hide this quick, do not expose us on this one. You all will be taken to task, noone has any sympathy for any of you. Law Schools and the Insitiution of Chartered Accounts will be in dire straights for awhile, if real Justice is done. Time for a full blown Inquiry, The Attorney General Sherry and the acting Auditor General should live up to their sworn responsibilities. The taxpeyers deserve no less. One would think Wes the Finance Minister is having a difficult time relating to this decision.

  • KF
    November 03, 2012 - 06:55

    There never seems to be anyone addressing the fact that many honest business people were forced to compete against rival businesses who received PNP dollars unfairly - even some who were denied pnp money early in the process, only to see rules later change and monies made available to competitors who had connections with a vested interest in seeing more pnp applications approved. This whole thing has been a farce and the books need to be opened, and I'm fine if some 'suffer' from having this info made public.

  • Chester L
    November 03, 2012 - 05:38

    The View from Martinvale........ 1. Democracy is not being denied.......this Legal release will be a starting point. 2 The Liberals and Tories who handed out the PNP PLums will be noted. 3. The $500 million destined for PEI 's economic coffers was taken wrongly. 4. The " middle people " in this scandal should be exposed and their relationship with The Liberal and PC parties involved. 5. Make no mistake on this one, special consideration was given out by Officials to those favored to get the " Units " and it was totally based on " Cronyism and PEI Politics and those who have " feasting at the upper echelon trough. 6. The Legally sound Busniess operators who received these " Units " have no worries unless they were part of the " privleged " and as well as those " Intermediaries " who were exibortently overpaid for their services....... 7. The process for selection of the PNP Units and thier issuance under proper Federal guidelines needs to be reexamined and find out why the Province and those involved manipulated the Immigration system to take this wealth from its intended users.....which were the Tax Payers of PEI, after the $500 million had benefited the PEI economy as was originally the intent of the PNP program....It was a Cash Grab for those undeserving and needs to be paid back......in full..some $300 million.........respectfully submitted

    • Bill Kays
      Bill Kays
      November 05, 2012 - 08:06

      Chester L, I completely agree with you. It was a crime perpetrated by both parties on the citizens of this province and those immigrants were taken to the wickets also. SHAME ON THEM.

  • kyle
    November 03, 2012 - 05:23

    And how many migrants to Toronto do the 3,374 units translate into? Why does the disclosure of one unit not constitute privileged information while two or more does? Methinks Solomon cut the babe in half to please all and will end up pleasing no one.

  • Joe Blow
    November 03, 2012 - 00:27

    Its going to be funny to see just how many politician's names show up on this list. There were dozens that created false businesses just in order to receive PNP units. If this money had been issued to businesses around PEI that were legit....it could have done great things to Island business and the Island economy, but the greedy Ghiz government couldn't keep their hands off the money and stole the money for their own personal gain.

  • Happy Days
    November 02, 2012 - 21:54

    Finally we get to see the names of the hierarchy that sold out our province.We handed out Canadian citizenships for Dollars.The people buying in received nothing more than a passport from Canada,no shares in any company,but how would you get shares if there was no company.50% of nothing is nothing.All this money must be paid back by the people that received it,leave taxpayers out of this very secretive boondoggle.Clear this up WITHOUT taxpayers dollars please.

    • Wrong on so many levels
      November 03, 2012 - 07:57

      These arguments and comments about PNP being taxpayers dollars is getting really really tiring. The money came from immigrants...please get informed before you post silly rants.

    • Marie
      November 03, 2012 - 09:27

      How can they possibly clear this up without stealing more taxpayer dollars? They took millions from people for "entry fees" before Ottawa stopped what they were doing. What about the money collected from people who weren't accepted for fast track visas? In a previous story, they weren't sure if those funds were available to pay back the people they turned down!!!! That means they spent monies that weren't even theirs to spend yet, so WHO will be on the hook to pay back the people who never even made it to PEI??? Ghiz has set PEI back so far financially, it will never recover. Oh...add another $19 million for that sad eyesore above Holman's and we're already $35+++ million in the hole for two Ghiz plots. He's about to head to Ottawa with the McGuinty clan, and Islanders will be left with the proverbial mop!!!

    • Happy Days
      November 03, 2012 - 12:41

      My point exactly.This was immigrants money.Give back the immigrants money when this all comes to a head.Don't involve taxpayer dollars in this unless it is to pay for police or jailtime.If the money was used as it was intended it should be no problem refunding it especially to those who had citizenship denied.

    • To wrong on so many levels
      November 03, 2012 - 13:00

      Goodness, I sure hope you're not a civil servant! If the PNP funds do not fit under the category of tax payer's dollars, what category do they fit under? A tax is, "a charge imposed by on persons or property for public purposes; a a sum levied on members of an organization to defray public expenses. The PNP money comes from foreign entities to gain access to public entitlements. The immigrants are then given access to the entitlements that Islanders have worked to secure. These are funds provided to the Department of Innovation and Advanced Learning for the purpose of credential assessment and re-distribution to the public body. Unless there's an explicit payola category that we don't know about, if it walks like a tax, is used as a tax . . . it's a tax!

  • typical pei bench half the issue decision
    November 02, 2012 - 21:41

    The decision I suppose is welcome after waiting a great deal of time for an obvious slam dunk as it were, yet the decision is lacking teeth enough to resolve a matter of great concern in the public. Elected officials and the elected governments too are limited from conducting anything in private as provided in Constitutional Law which Honourable Justice Cheverie failed to regard and erred at law. It should be appealed but the list numbers and the average units per company will create more questions with more horrifying consequences to the parties. Allot of lawyers and accountants fees to be held to the light. thanks eh

  • don
    November 02, 2012 - 21:24

    Haldemann all she was doing was protecting her job and making points with her boss.the law meant nothing nor the rights of the people. but Supreme Court Justice Wayne Cheverie thank you. but we know ghizzy MUST appeal to protect his leadership if not he will be out of a job. but ghizzy let it go as when crane gets in and gives you and your gang the pink slip she will open the books.

    • Don you win
      November 03, 2012 - 07:59

      You win the prize for having the silliest post of the day (so far).