Quebec immigrant program increases in popularity … with ‘downsides’ for B.C. | Vancouver Sun

Ongoing coverage and controversy. I agree with the critics:

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.

Quebec’s enthusiasm during this period soared, from a little over 1,000 in 2008 to five times that annual total now.

Kenney, who said applicants misrepresenting themselves in their applications were engaged in “a crime” and “fraud” in 2013,  was unable to get bureaucrats to take action before he was shuffled out of the ministry later that year.

The only positive economic spin-off Eby said that he’s witnessed in his Vancouver-Point Grey riding, the focus of Vancouver’s housing price explosion, is the opening of a Ferrari dealership.

“Apart from that, it’s hard to figure out what benefit we see in British Columbia for this program. And the downsides are profound.”

Simon Fraser University professor Joshua Gordon, author of a recent report on Vancouver’s housing crisis, said every British Columbian who hears about the Quebec program is “appalled,” and yet the Clark government “won’t go to bat” for them.

“The absence of any public pressure from the B.C. government on the feds or Quebec to end the program is revealing about the way the Clark government thinks about the housing issue,” Gordon said Friday.

“What this suggests is that the Clark government’s strategy is to continue to fuel the housing bubble, since they realize it’s the main economic game in town, and hope that equity windfalls for boomers will get them re-elected — and that the whole thing doesn’t come crashing down.”

A spokesman for the Quebec immigration ministry, meanwhile, said Friday that his province didn’t jump in to increase its intake as a result of Ottawa’s departure from the field.

Quebec has actually reduced the number of applications it has accepted in recent years, from 2,138 in 2013 to 1,278 in 2015, according to Jonathan Lavallee. He indicated the recent bump had to do with a processing backlog in the federal system — a contention that Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland supports.

The Quebec government has also acknowledged the leakage problem, saying in a 2014 discussion paper that only a “small minority” choose to settle in Quebec for the long term.

Kurland praised Quebec’s recent efforts to retain more rich immigrants. One such measure gives preferential treatment to French-speakers.

The federal figures don’t break down the source countries for the immigrants through the investor program. However, the Quebec government says 89 per cent of its investor immigrants this year will come from Asia.

The Quebec investor program, for a net cost that Kurland pegs at $125,000, allows wealthy foreigners jump to the front of the immigration queue even if they didn’t speak a word of English or French.

Federal Immigration Minister John McCallum said in a recent interview that he has no intention of challenging Quebec on its immigration policy, and a departmental spokeswoman said the province has every right under a 1991 Canada-Quebec accord to set its immigration policy.

Kurland said Canada has the authority to shut down Quebec’s program if it has the political will to annoy a province in which Trudeau holds 40 of 78 seats.

And he challenged the common assertion that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees mobility rights, prevents authorities from forcing newly arrived permanent residents to stay in Quebec after arrival.

He noted that all charter rights are subjected to Section 1 of the 1982 Constitution Act, which says all rights can be circumscribed by “reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

Kurland, who believes B.C. should set up its own investor program, said a court could be convinced that it is “reasonable” to insist that newcomers stay in the province they declared an intent to live in for their first two years in Canada.

That could be enforced by requiring successful applicants to forfeit the entire $800,000 investment if they move before that time.

“The Charter has a two-part test. A breach of rights is not the end of the debate.”

Ian Young, the South China Morning Post’s Vancouver correspondent, echoed Kenney’s harsh assessment in a column last week.

“It is a money-grubbing prank perpetrated upon Vancouver by Quebec,” Young said. “It is a scam, and it needs to stop.”

Source: Quebec immigrant program increases in popularity … with ‘downsides’ for B.C. | Vancouver Sun

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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