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Innovation Minister Allan Campbell said the new Provincial Nominee Program will soon be up and running. ((CBC))

The P.E.I. government is finally set to announce a new Provincial Nominee Program.

Innovation Minister Allan Campbell said Tuesday there have been extensive discussions with Citizenship and Immigration over the fall and winter, and a new immigrant investors' program will be rolled out in about a month.

But, he said, there will be rule changes.

"The federal government has established a cap on the number of nominations that we can have here in the province for this year," Campbell said.

"They've established that number at 400, and we're obviously aspiring to hit those targets and hopefully see them increase."

The old PNP program allowed immigrants to invest $200,000 in a P.E.I. business and receive a Canadian visa. It ran from 2001 to 2008, attracting controversy when nearly 2,000 immigrants were pushed through in its final year.

Under the new rules, immigrants will have the choice of buying a one-third ownership in a company, or investing $1 million for five years as a loan.

Campbell said the precise rules to qualify are still being worked out, but some businesses are concerned they'll be too strict.

"I wouldn't say that it'll be tougher to access, but certainly the number of nominations that we'll see here will be lower," he said.

Provincial Opposition Leader Olive Crane spoke with federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney last week during a trip to Ottawa about a new program for P.E.I.

"We all know what this government's record is in terms of administering the program, and we certainly will be looking forward to the details of who will be eligible and how they plan on managing it," she said.

One significant change is that farmers and fishermen will now be eligible under the program.

"We want to see investment in our primary sectors here in the province, and we hope, and we're confident that this program will do that," Campbell said.

The original program was plagued by controversy.

Government MLAs and senior civil servants took advantage of immigrant investment, and Citizenship and Immigration complained about the quality of companies approved for investment.

A 2009 report by the University of Prince Edward Island showed that of the 44 immigrant families that arrived in the province through the PNP in the last four months of 2006, only 11 were still on the Island 2½ years later — a retention rate of 25 per cent.  

Many of the immigrants reported that they were unhappy with how they had been treated by the province.