PC MLA questions whether P.E.I. is 'launch pad' to get into Canada

Opposition MLA Steven Myers questioned government in the legislature Tuesday over whether P.E.I. has been serving as a "launch pad" for immigrants who want to move to other provinces in Canada.

Province says retention rates are improving and PNP has been redesigned and improved

PC MLA Steven Myers continued to ask questions about the Provincial Nominee Program in the legislature Tuesday. (Ken Linton/CBC)

Opposition MLA Steven Myers questioned government in the legislature Tuesday over whether P.E.I. has been serving as a "launch pad" for immigrants who want to move to other provinces in Canada. 

Myers was questioning government over the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) and P.E.I.'s immigration retention rate. 

We don't want to be known world-wide as the place where you can get easy immigration papers to Canada.— Steven Myers

The Opposition has been hammering government over the PNP since two Charlottetown hoteliers were charged last week by the Canada Border Services Agency with helping set up fake addresses for Chinese immigrants. 

Myers pointed to numbers from the federal department of immigration from 2008 to 2013 when the retention rate was just 20 per cent. The next-lowest province, New Brunswick, had retention three times higher. 

P.E.I. nominees ending up in Ontario

Statistics Canada tracked where thousands of PNP immigrants who arrived in P.E.I. during that period actually ended up.

'We're very comfortable the numbers are improving — we see that every day,' says P.E.I.'s Economic Development minister Chris Palmer. (Ken Linton/CBC)

The report shows that over those five years, 40 per cent of P.E.I.'s nominees settled in Ontario. Ontario ended up with twice as many of the Island's provincial nominees as P.E.I. over this period.

According to Statistics Canada, P.E.I. had the lowest retention rates in the country from 2010 to 2015 for economic-category immigrants at just 14 per cent.

Statistics Canada said economic-category immigrants are people who have been selected for their ability to contribute to Canada's economy through their ability to meet labour market needs, to own and manage or to build a business, to make a substantial investment, to create their own employment or to meet specific provincial or territorial labour market needs.

"Our reputation is at stake here on Prince Edward Island. We don't want to be known world-wide as the place where you can get easy immigration papers to Canada," said Myers.

"We want immigrants here. We want them to come and stay and settle and be part of our Island fabric, but the program … doesn't do that and clearly the stats show that it hasn't."

Figures from old PNP program, says province

Economic Development minister Chris Palmer repeated what government has said as the PNP has been discussed in the legislature the past week — that these figures are based on the old PNP program.

Government pointed to a more recent report and one and two-year retention reviews from 2014 and 2015, showing more than half of P.E.I.'s nominees stayed in the province over those shorter time frames. There haven't been figures that high in any reviews looking at long-term retention. 

"Our retention rates are 57 per cent in 2015, so we continue to attract new immigrants and all you have to do is look around Charlottetown and you can see that our population is growing," said Palmer. "There's jobs being created, and labour gaps being filled across the Island."

"Well, I see high rents and high retail prices, businesses rolling over once their one year is up," said Myers in response. 

'Attract the best and brightest'

Palmer said the province continues to make improvements in areas like settlement services and hopes to see retention rates improve even more.

"Our goal is to attract the best and brightest immigrants here to P.E.I. and we're doing that," said Palmer. "It's really part of our population strategy."

"We have a new expression-of-interest model that engages municipalities to meet with immigrants to understand their business plans and their plans for the future," said Palmer. 

More P.E.I. news

About the Author

Krystalle Ramlakhan

Krystalle Ramlakhan is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I., Winnipeg and Iqaluit.

With files from Kerry Campbell