The list of PNP beneficiaries released by the province Tuesday shows numerous P.E.I. business owners received PNP funds for multiple companies despite rules that prohibited this.
It also reveals numerous non-profit organizations benefitted from the program even though non-profits were not eligible, according to program rules.
But Innovation Minister Allen Roach would not answer questions about these issues when interviewed by The Guardian Wednesday.
He maintained he would be breaching privacy by speaking about the way his department officials and the directors of Island Investment Development Inc. handled this program.
“(Justice Wayne Cheverie) ruled that what I was allowed to do, or the government of Prince Edward Island and this department, was release the names of the corporations that had received PNP and were part of the program and that’s exactly what I’ve done,” Roach said in an interview.
“I’m not going to go any further than that because then I would be in breach of privacy.”
On Tuesday, the province released the full list of companies that received immigrant investments through the Provincial Nominee Program. It was a program that matched immigrant investees to Island companies, aimed at boosting immigration to the province.
But the program has been plagued by controversy for the past four years after the federal government shut P.E.I.’s program down when it learned the immigrants were not taking an active role in the companies in which they made investments.
The list of companies that benefitted from PNP money is extensive. It accounts for over a quarter of all Island companies.
But it also reveals many of the problems identified by the auditor general in his 2009 investigation into this program.
The AG found some cases where these senior bureaucrats directed approval for businesses that didn't qualify and approved some companies to get more investment units than they were eligible for.
The PNP company list sheds more light on this. It shows, for example, eight companies in which Charlottetown businessman Kevin Murphy is listed as a director on the P.E.I. corporate registry. PNP rules stated companies whose primary shareholders received units for a business would not be eligible for more money through other companies.
But the list shows this was a seemingly regular occurrence. Dozens of other business owners also received PNP investments for multiple companies. One major beneficiary from multiple companies, according to the list, was Stephen McKnight – a Summerside lawyer who also worked with companies applying to the PNP with their legal documentation. Eleven companies of which he is a shareholder received PNP money.
Other noteworthy names on the list are those of non-profit organizations, which were ineligible for the program.
But these non-profits created corporate entities in order to fit program criteria. One of these was the Confederation Centre of the Arts, which created two corporations called Centreworks and Centretours that both received funds.
Other non-profits include the Civic Centre, which created Charlottetown Civic Centre Developments Inc. and Tourism Charlottetown, which created two corporations that both received PNP funds – TCI Major Events and TCI Facilities.
Roach again would not answer questions about these issues.
He would only say the PNP beneficiary list shows many Island businesses received capital at a time they needed it most.
“Island businesses and the Island economy have benefitted greatly from this,” Roach said.
“When you look at the fact that we have that many companies in P.E.I. that have participated in a great program, I find it extremely unfortunate that (Opposition Leader) Olive Crane wants to make our Island businesses feel ashamed for participating in a program that was designed to help Island businesses and help the Island economy.”
Crane has been calling for a public inquiry into the PNP to find out why decisions were made that saw program rules broken or ignored.
Premier Robert Ghiz has said he will not call for a public inquiry into this program.