Let's be careful that we understand exactly what's going on with the entrepreneur component of the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). Teresa Wright's story on November 6 reporting that the P.E.I. government collected $27.2 million from the PNP during the past year should be a major red flag signalling something is very wrong with the program, especially since most of that amount was collected from immigrant entrepreneurs who failed to do what they were supposed to do: namely, start or purchase an Island business.
Economic Development Minister Heath MacDonald says the PNP is working fine because a few more immigrant entrepreneurs are apparently still living in P.E.I.. He says that's what's really important - that the government is making progress increasing P.E.I.’s population.
That statement is incredibly misleading. I regard it as a deliberate attempt to cover-up the truth about how much harm the entrepreneur stream of the PNP is actually doing to Prince Edward Island. In truth, most of these entrepreneur investor-class immigrants only stay in P.E.I. long enough to reclaim $50,000 of their $200,000 escrow deposit; there's absolutely no reason to believe they won't out-migrate to Toronto or Vancouver, just like the majority of immigrant entrepreneurs landing in P.E.I. have done for nearly two decades.
In the meantime, the vast majority of these immigrant entrepreneurs (who aren't really “entrepreneurs” since they don't run businesses in P.E.I.) make no substantial contribution to the P.E.I. economy, other than possibly buying expensive vehicles from local car dealerships, or investing in the purchase of other Island assets, including land. They don't work and they don't pay taxes; nor are they creating work for Islanders.
They're simply biding their time to reduce the cost of buying Canadian citizenship from $200,000 to $150,000 the P.E.I. government is selling them, while receiving free healthcare, free education for their children, etc. Then it's off to greener pastures.
Ironically, the federal government has determined that refugees - who many wrongly believe are a "drain" on society and social services - report higher earnings and pay more taxes than multi-millionaire investor-class immigrants, reporting that 39 per cent of all investor-class immigrants paid no income tax whatsoever after living in Canada for five years. (Google: “Refugees pay more income tax than millionaire investor immigrants”).
In the meantime, immigrant recruitment agents, a handful of lawyers, another handful of accountants, car dealership owners, and of course, the provincial government, are accruing millions and millions of dollars. So, it's clearly misleading for Minister MacDonald to say that this program is working. Yes, it's working fine for a few people.... but it's hurting the rest of us immensely, and seriously jeopardizing our future.
Most tragic of all is that the current PNP represents a major missed opportunity to bring more immigrants and refugees to P.E.I. who would happily live here for the rest of their lives, raise families, and help us create a prosperous future for our entire Island community.
The entrepreneur component of the PNP is effectively preventing us from having a viable immigration program and population strategy capable of achieving an economically appropriate, equitable and sustainable social vision for P.E.I.
It should be shut down immediately, with a simultaneous announcement of a public consultation process with the aim of forging a new program designed to work for the betterment of us all, including immigrants and refugees: we deserve far more from our government than an immigration program that mitigates poor fiscal planning while lining the pockets of a privileged few.
- Kevin J. Arsenault lives in Ft. Augustus. He obtained his PhD. in Ethics from McGill University