Quebec immigration plan hurting BC

The Harper government signalled Thursday that it will no longer put up with Quebec accepting thousands of deep-pocketed investor immigrants each year even though the majority settle in other provinces, especially B.C.

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander echoed complaints from predecessor Jason Kenney, who said in June that some immigrants are engaged in a “fraud” that enriches the Quebec government while costing taxpayers in B.C. and elsewhere a bundle.

At issue is Ottawa’s cash-for-visa program that gives permanent residency status to those who are prepared to inject – in the form of a guaranteed, interest-free loan — $800,000 into the Canadian economy. Quebec operates a parallel program.

The Quebec program is more popular because the approval process is quicker and easier, and it takes in twice as many people, according to Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland.

That has critics suggesting rich foreigners are using the Quebec scheme to do an end-run around Ottawa to set up in Vancouver or Toronto.

“If someone applies to immigrate to a particular province, that is where they are undertaking to reside,” Alexander, who replaced Kenney in last month’s cabinet shuffle, told The Vancouver Sun in a statement.

“While we respect provincial jurisdiction, as a matter of fairness we cannot send federal transfer payments to one province for someone living in another. That saddles the other provinces with unfair resettlement costs, such as health care and education.

“We will work with our provincial partners to find a fair and reasonable solution.”

Quebec’s Parti Quebecois government, which announced changes to the investor immigrant program Thursday to increase the number of French-speaking applicants, rejected the fraud charge.