Feds won’t fight ‘sweetheart’ Quebec immigration program despite B.C. fallout

June 26, 2016

By Peter O’Neil, Vancouver Sun |

The Trudeau government says it has no interest in challenging Quebec’s “sweetheart” immigration system, even though West Coast critics say two components of that province’s system effectively hurt B.C.

“I’m quite happy with the relationship that we currently enjoy with Quebec,” Immigration Minister John McCallum said in an interview after confirming that he won’t pursue changes.

Jason Kenney, considered a leading challenger for the Conservative Party leadership if he remains in federal politics, fumed when he was immigration minister about “fraud” in Quebec’s Immigrant Investor program.

That program lets wealthy foreigners effectively buy permanent residence status in Canada, but research has indicated that most settle outside Quebec and especially in B.C.

As a result, Quebec gets the financial benefits from the cash-for-visa program while, say critics, B.C. has to deal with both the positives and negatives associated with the arrival of wealthy migrants.

Benefits for B.C. include the stimulation of the economy with luxury purchases. But new arrivals — including the spouses and children of “astronauts” who work and pay taxes overseas — also use public education and health care services, plus they play a role in driving up real estate prices.

The federal government shut down its own investor program in 2014 due to public criticism and the widespread perception that the cost outweighed the benefits.

Kenney, who also complained about a “sweetheart” 1991 deal that gave Quebec a hugely disproportionate share of federal immigrant settlement dollars, was never able to convince cabinet colleagues and the bureaucracy to take on Quebec.

McCallum said he also has no interest in shutting down the investor program or taking steps that would require Quebec to keep rich immigrants in the province longer.

“It’s not something we can control even if we wanted to, because once you are a permanent resident the Constitution allows you to live wherever you want to live in Canada.”

He also said he will not try to renegotiate the 1991 Canada-Quebec immigration accord, agreed to at a time when the sovereignty movement was at its strongest.

It granted Quebec an annual grant starting at $75 million a year in immigrant and refugee resettlement money.

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