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EDITORIAL: Time for P.E.I. to up its game

Province's PNP standards fall below other provinces
(File Graphic)
Province's PNP standards fall below other provinces (File Graphic) - The Guardian

What we don’t want to see is the province splashed across national headlines again over shady PNP dealings. And yet, once again this week, the province is being called out.

Considering past problems which ensnared Prince Edward Island and its Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), it’s essential that all rules and regulations are stringently followed today. The program is too important to this province in terms of economic wealth and growing our population to be jeopardized by more mistakes.

Everyone associated with PNP should have learned a valuable lesson from past missteps. Demands for a public inquiry resulting from past scandals and backroom shenanigans have never really gone away. The province must realize it is under constant scrutiny.

Immigrants drawn here by PNP are largely responsible for increasing the Island’s population numbers. The economic spinoffs are helping to drive P.E.I.’s healthy economy. With these proven benefits, it would be imperative for the province to take every precaution to ensure the program is handled in a fully transparent and accountable fashion. And that attention to detail is scrupulously followed.

What we don’t want to see is the province splashed across national headlines again over shady PNP dealings. And yet, once again this week, the province is being called out.

A Canadian Press investigation shows that P.E.I. is behind PNP standards in other provinces. Almost one in five immigrants who committed to run a business in Prince Edward Island for a year, spent 100 or more days abroad. It suggests those immigrants are not concerned with operating a successful business here and that government is lax about enforcing regulations.

Those missing-in-action immigrants were not disqualified from the program and were still granted permanent residency with the freedom to move anywhere in Canada. P.E.I. has to up its game, for its own benefit and those of the immigrants it is seeking to help. Now is when the province should be tightening those standards and disqualifying some people for not following the rules. It would send a signal that the days of lax enforcement are over and everyone is being held to a higher standard.

The pattern suggests P.E.I.’s standards are easier to meet than other provinces. It suggests the province is more than happy to seize defaults on immigrants’ deposits. In 2016-17, the province netted $18 million as a result of those forfeited deposits. The windfall is an attractive source of revenue for funding capital projects or balancing the provincial budget.

With a growing immigrant population and increasing numbers of PNP applicants remaining on the Island, there’s little justification for P.E.I.’s standards to fall below those of other jurisdictions. The province may have felt it was at a disadvantage initially, and had to make itself more attractive for immigrants. Those days are over.

If P.E.I. brought its standards up to the levels of other provinces, it’s unlikely it would scare off immigrants. It begs the question why P.E.I. doesn't raise the bar instead of opening itself up for more criticism. P.E.I. must move past these questionable practices and stand on its own.

The province has proven itself successful in welcoming, embracing and retaining newcomers. It’s time to move forward with a renewed sense of confidence.

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