Quebec immigrant program increases in popularity … with ‘downsides’ for B.C.
July 11, 2016
By Peter O’Nell, Vancouver Sun |
The Quebec government, running a cash-for-visa program labelled a “fraud” and “scam” by critics who say it hurts British Columbia, received a record-breaking number of rich immigrants in 2015.
The 40-per-cent increase took place a year after the former Conservative federal government complained that the program’s harms outweighed its benefits and shut down an identical national investor-luring scheme.
Quebec has autonomy to select its own immigrants under a 1991 accord with the federal government, so decided to continue its own program.
Critics, including Conservative MP Jason Kenney when he was immigration minister, have complained that the vast majority of investor immigrants are wealthy Asians who dishonestly declare an intention to live in Quebec, then move immediately, to Toronto and, especially, to Vancouver.
Quebec gets the financial benefits of the program while Metro Vancouver gets inflated housing prices and added stress on the public education and health care systems, the critics argue.
The latest evidence of Quebec’s growing enthusiasm for luring millionaire migrants prompted criticism of the B.C. government, which hasn’t been vocal on the issue despite allegations that the program has played a role in Vancouver’s housing affordability crisis.
“The silence from the B.C. government has been absolutely startling,” said New Democratic Party MLA David Eby.
“In effect, they are content with a program that brings major housing affordability problems, while allowing many wealthy migrants to use British Columbia’s social services virtually for free.”
Jobs Minister Shirley Bond said in a statement Friday that Victoria has “consistently” raised its concerns with Ottawa about the need for additional settlement funding to offset the cost of “secondary migration” when immigrants land somewhere else but then head straight to the West Coast.
“We are in active conversations with the federal government,” she said, noting that Quebec has had the authority for decades to select its own immigrants.
The total number of applicants and their family members admitted under the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program reached just over 5,000 last year.
That compares with 2014’s total of 3,669. The previous high was 4,436 in 2012.
Quebec says it will bring in roughly the same number in 2016, according to the province’s immigration plan tabled recently in the Quebec National Assembly.
The former Conservative government, while initially enthusiastic about the program, soon questioned its value and sharply reduced national admissions from an average of around 9,200 in 2008-2010 to 3,787 in its final year of 2014.
When the Tories shut down the program in 2014 they said the program’s costs far outweighed the benefits for Canadian — and especially B.C. — taxpayers.