B.C. company benefits from Quebec cash-for-visa program
July 15, 2016
By Peter O’Neil, Vancouver Sun |
OTTAWA — A B.C.-based company says it has brought $2 billion to Canada under the Quebec government’s cash-for-visa program, a scheme that some say is a factor in Vancouver’s housing affordability crisis.
Vancouver-based RCI Capital Group, which helps resource companies develop strategies and raise money in Asia, has a Montreal-based subsidiary that has been active for years in the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program.
The Quebec program has become increasingly controversial in Metro Vancouver as critics point to it as one of the drivers of sky-high housing prices, since the vast majority of successful Quebec applicants immediately establish themselves in Toronto and Vancouver.
RCI’s Montreal subsidiary is Renaissance Capital, one of the companies recognized by the Quebec government as an “intermediary” for rich foreigners who want to use the Quebec investor program to become a permanent resident of Canada.
“We can take care of all the details to maximize the chances of success of your immigration process,” the company website advises potential clients, who must prove a net worth of $1.6 million and be willing to invest $800,000 of their wealth in government five-year bonds.
The applicants get the $800,000 back after five years, but forgo the interest, pay various fees and pay the commissions to companies like Renaissance.
Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland estimates the total cost to get a permanent resident status through the Quebec program is around $125,000, though others say the costs are higher.
RCI is headed by John Park, an entrepreneur who likes to recruit former politicians to help him pitch business deals in Asia.
Ex-Conservative cabinet minister Stockwell Day is RCI’s lead director, while prominent B.C. Tory John Reynolds was for years involved with the company after he retired from politics.
Day, who retired from politics before the 2011 election, delivered speeches and gave media interviews during the 2013 election to help the B.C. Liberals. Since then he’s remained chummy with Premier Christy Clark and the Liberals. He contributed $11,850 since late 2014, mostly through the law firm McMillan LLP, where he is a senior strategic adviser. Clark tweeted a photo of her and Day together at a Kelowna event earlier this month.
Park has also had links to the premier, briefly hiring her to head an RCI subsidiary in 2007 when she was out of politics, though the premier said she never did anything for the company and wasn’t paid.
Park worked hard to build contacts with the former Conservative government as a founding member of the Canada Korea Foundation, which was launched in Vancouver in 20111 at an event where then prime minister Stephen Harper was guest speaker. The foundation promoted bilateral trade ties but was also used as a vehicle to garner Tory support in Canada’s South Korean community, according to evidence at a 2014 B.C. Supreme Court trial relating to a dispute among the Foundation’s founding members, including Park.
Twice, in 2012 and 2013, Park was part of business delegations with the premier on Asia trade missions.
Park, who specializes in mergers and acquisitions, said political links are necessary because he deals frequently with executives from state-owned enterprises in China and South Korea, who are most comfortable dealing with government officials.