MONTREAL — Nine out of 10 wealthy immigrants accepted into Quebec's investor immigrant program never come to Quebec, federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Friday.
"I do think it is peculiar that the province that was given power to select immigrants primarily to reinforce the French fact in Quebec is in fact flipping Asian people into Vancouver," Kenney said during a meeting with the Montreal Gazette editorial board.
"In principle, the Quebec immigration program should be about immigration to Quebec."
Kenney defended the investor program.
"There are millions of millionaires. There is absolutely no shortage of demand for this kind of program. We have a huge surplus of applications."
But the immigration minister said he would like to see both the national and Quebec programs revamped to better reflect the demand from rich people while making the programs more valuable to Canada.
Under existing criteria, the national and Quebec versions of the program accept applications from investors with a net worth of at least $1.6 million, provided they make an $800,000 loan to the state, which is repayable without interest in five years.
Kenney said the "vast majority" of the roughly 4,500 people Quebec accepts under the investor scheme settle elsewhere.
He said in most cases, the family sets up a household in Vancouver while the breadwinner "goes back to Asia or wherever to run the business, where they are not paying Canadian taxes."
While that is also true of people accepted under the federal investor immigration program, Kenney said at least those people generally settle where they said they would.
"Here's what often happens. Quebec will get the $800,000 for five years. B.C. will get the social-services costs for health care and everything else for the dependants who have been brought to Vancouver.
"People in Vancouver are always asking me, 'Why are we facilitating this, because it is leading to inflation of real estate prices?' Which is great if you are well-established and you have paid down your mortgage. But if you are a young family starting out, good luck being able to afford a house in Vancouver. A lot of people who aren't rooted in Vancouver are inflating the costs."
Kenney said the federal government hasn't decided how to revamp the program, which it would do in consultation with Quebec.
"We have decided that we have to raise the price point. There is a huge surplus of people applying for these programs beyond our ability to admit them and we just aren't getting enough bang for the buck."
Meanwhile, Kenney said the federal government is in the process of revoking the citizenship of 2,300 people, with at least 6,000 more cases under investigation.
"Thousands of people were using crooked immigration consultants to create fake proof of residency in Canada. When we find several thousand people who have broken the law, it is pretty widespread."
In a luncheon speech to the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations, where Kenney was heckled for the Conservatives' recent crackdown on refugee claimants, the minister spoke about changes to citizenship criteria that would require applicants to provide proof of their skills in one of Canada's two official languages.
"We had begun... to devalue citizenship in the sense that we were not consistently applying the statutory requirements to obtain citizenship," he said.
— Postmedia News