Published on November 06, 2012
Premier Robert Ghiz meets with Chinese protesters outside of his office in this Guardian file photo dated March 6, 2009. Protesters were angry over the province's handling of the Provincial Nominee Program. Guardian file photo.
Published on November 06, 2012
The list of P.E.I. companies that received PNP funds tops 1,354.
After four years of controversy, the P.E.I. government has finally released the list of 1,354 companies that received PNP funds.
But with no dollar amounts attached to the names on this list, questions remain about how many investment units some companies may have received and whether some businesses received more than the maximum number of investments allowed under the program's rules.
The province issued a news release late in the day Tuesday, saying it was complying with the Supreme Court ruling late last week that said the list of Provincial Nominee Program beneficiaries should be released.
The complete list is now available on the P.E.I. government website. The Guardian will also print the full list in Wednesday's print edition of the newspaper and provide a PDF download copy of the list on its website.
Innovation Minister Allen Roach could not be reached for comment.
But in a news release issued Tuesday, he said he released the list in compliance with the Supreme Court decision.
"The businesses listed account for about one-quarter of all Island businesses," Roach said.
"The (PNP) is an economic program used by all provinces and territories to boost a province's economy and support local businesses. More than 1,300 Island businesses received investment through the Provincial Nominee Program, who in turn invest in the Island economy."
On Friday, Supreme Court Justice Wayne Cheverie overturned a decision of the province's former privacy commissioner, who denied the CBC a Freedom of Information request asking for the list of PNP beneficiaries. But in the same ruling, Cheverie upheld the commissioner's decision not to release the number of investment units each company received, as this could reveal information about those companies' finances and assets.
Opposition Leader Olive Crane has led the charge in trying to shed light on the controversies that have plagued government over the way this program was administered, especially in the final weeks before it was shut down by Ottawa.
She said Tuesday her concern has always been the "preferential treatment" some people and companies received in getting PNP investment funds, notably government officials and their family members.
"The (PNP) is an economic program used by all provinces and territories to boost a province's economy and support local businesses. More than 1,300 Island businesses received investment through the Provincial Nominee Program, who in turn invest in the Island economy," Innovation Minister Allen Roach
"There's clear guidelines for ministers and senior government staff that we cannot put ourselves in positions where we can take advantage of programs when other people can't," Crane said in an interview.
"A lot of the lines of questions that I asked for years through the public accounts and the legislature means this list will certainly generate more questions."
The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) offered Canadian visas to immigrants who invested between $120,000 and $200,000 on P.E.I., some of which went into an Island company. It was established to encourage immigration to the province.
The federal government shut down P.E.I.'s program in 2008 after it discovered the province was allowing immigrants to invest in companies in which they had no active involvement.
P.E.I.'s auditor general launched an investigation into the program in 2009 and found the government broke rules, changed rules without proper approval and approved businesses for PNP investments that didn't qualify.
Several sitting and former MLAs received PNP money for their personal businesses.
Three deputy ministers and some of their spouses also received immigrant investment units for their companies, including Brooke MacMillan, who was the deputy minister in charge of the program when the feds flagged it as problematic.
MacMillan also approved changes to the PNP that made his own business eligible to receive funds. His wife also received PNP money. Premier Robert Ghiz ordered MacMillan to pay the money back and he did.
The RCMP is close to being ready to release its findings on a preliminary investigation launched last year into allegations of fraud and bribery involving this program that were sent to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
The Canada Border Services Agency also investigated these allegations, but closed its probe due to lack of evidence.