THE Harper government signalled Thursday it will no longer put up with the Quebec government accepting thousands of deep-pocketed investor immigrants a year even though most settle in other provinces -- especially British Columbia.
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander's statement echoed recent complaints from his predecessor, Jason Kenney, who told a parliamentary committee in June immigrants are engaged in a "fraud" that enriches the Quebec government while costing taxpayers in B.C. and elsewhere a bundle.
At issue is Ottawa's cash-for-visa program, which gives permanent residence to immigrants, including those who speak neither English nor French, who are prepared to inject $800,000 into the Canadian economy in the form of a guaranteed, interest-free loan.
Quebec operates a parallel program that brings in twice as many immigrants as Ottawa's, leading many critics to believe rich foreigners are using it to do an end run around Ottawa as they seek to set up in Vancouver or Toronto.
"If someone applies to immigrate to a particular province, that is where they are undertaking to reside," Alexander said.
"While we respect provincial jurisdiction, as a matter of fairness we cannot send federal transfer payments to one province for someone living in another. That saddles the other provinces with unfair resettlement costs, such as health care and education."
Quebec's Parti Qu©b©cois government, which made changes to the investor immigrant program Thursday to increase the number of French-speaking applicants, rejected the charge.
"All immigrants, regardless of their chosen program, have the right to move and settle where they want to in Canada once they've obtained permanent residency," said Jonathan Lavall©e, spokesman for the ministry of immigration and cultural communities.
"To say that this is a sham is absolutely wrong."
Using statistics from the Quebec government, Citizenship and Immigration Canada estimates more than 90 per cent of those accepted by Quebec's program end up living in other provinces. Most go directly to Greater Vancouver.
"It is a crime. We are talking about fraud," former immigration minister Jason Kenney said about the system.
-- National Post