Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Immigrant program needs fix

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The provincial government holds up as a sign of progress its 60 per cent success rate in attracting investment from business immigrants. Others say the program is simply a way to let a lot of affluent applicants buy permanent residency in Canada. Manitoba does not have the data to argue otherwise.

The program, launched in 2000, requires business immigrants under the provincial nominee program to put up $75,000 before coming and then, given permanent residency, to invest in a business within two years or forfeit the deposit. But Manitoba does not analyze the annual rate of investment or whether those who don't invest stay here.

Most federal economic immigrants have always headed to British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. That explains why B.C., has much tighter requirements for business-class immigrants under its provincial program. Rather than offering permanent residency immediately, it requires a prospective business investors to enter with a working visa. If he or she establishes a business, B.C. then asks Ottawa to give permanent residency status.

B.C. brings in only 44 of its own business-class immigrants per year, while Manitoba approves 200 each year. Prior to 2000, Manitoba saw very few of business immigrants come under the federal program. Since 2000, 1,270 business immigrants have landed in Manitoba under the provincial program; 521 have started businesses; 357 have forfeited their $75,000 deposit and another 392 files remain open.

Manitoba does not monitor residency of its business-class immigrants and does not know whether those who forfeited their deposits headed to other provinces. This gives weight to allegations the program is a cheap way for rich people to buy their way into Canada.

The rate of forfeiture indicates some fraud, and it means many others with legitimate intentions and plans were overlooked or left waiting in line.

Eliminating the program, or adopting the B.C. model, risks gutting immigrant investment -- Manitoba estimates $200 million has been invested here since 2000. A federal review of provincial nominee programs last year acknowledged they push economic immigrants into the regions. That analysis also bemoaned the lack of monitoring and evaluation of the programs.

There is little comfort in mediocrity. Manitoba must start tracking immigrants who enter under the business class to improve the rate at which they make good on a promise to investment.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 10, 2012 A10

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