Last Thursday, the Harper government expressed that it would no longer tolerate Quebec’s admittance of thousands of investor immigrants who do not settle in the province, reported the National Post. The Quebec provincial government is accused of making large profits out of immigration investments and federal transfer payments, while leaving the burden of social services costs to other provinces, especially British Columbia.
The Immigrant Investor Program (IPP) offers two streams of application to prospective high-net-worth immigrants: the federal investor program or its provincial equivalent, the Quebec investor program. The purpose of the IPP is to attract wealthy foreigners in order to inject their capital into the Canadian economy. In exchange for the Canadian permanent residency, applicants must demonstrate some business experience, have a net worth of at least $1,600,000, and make an investment of $800,000 as a five-year interest-free loan to the Canadian government.
The newly-appointed Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander points out that Quebec receives federal transfer payments for every investor immigrant it accepts, even if these immigrants do not settle in Quebec in the long run. The Federal Government has thus expressed its concerned for the fact that more than 90% of those admitted under the Quebec investor program eventually settle in other provinces, with the majority moving to Greater Vancouver, as stated in the Vancouver Sun. This means then that British Columbia ends up shouldering the costs of providing settlement and other social services, such as health care and education, to these new immigrants.
“As a matter of fairness, we cannot send federal transfer payments to one province for someone living in another,” said Alexander. “We will work with our provincial partners to find a fair and reasonable solution.”
In regards to this phenomena, Alexander’s predecessor, the former Minister Jason Kenney, has laid blame on investor immigrants for committing “fraud” that serves the Quebec government but harms taxpayers in British Columbia. Kenney suggests that investor immigrants who have no intention to settle in Quebec make misleading statements in regards to their interest to settle in the province during their application process, calling it a violation of the Citizenship and Immigration Act.
Whether investor immigrants are entirely at fault for the mismatch between benefits and burdens allocated to Quebec and British Columbia is contestable. The Quebec government does not impose an obligation for new immigrants to remain the province while enjoying financial gains from its relaxed investor immigration program. Also, investor immigrants settling in Vancouver do not necessarily cause harm to taxpayers in the province, pointed out Richard Kurland, a Vancouver-based immigration lawyer.
“Millionaire families buy houses, cars, and spend to live a nice lifestyle in Canada,” said Kurland. “Consumption is the real benefit, even if these families contribute little in taxes.”
Alexander is committed to deal with the issue as one of his first challenges as the head of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). For the time being, the IPP is temporarily closed for applications.
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