Tenants of the Chinese megamall being built at the Global Transportation Hub are not required to hire Canadians, like other immigrant-established businesses in Regina.
Brightenview Development International is constructing a wholesale mall at the GTH, which the company says will house 300 businesses run by would-be Chinese immigrants wanting to sell their wares in the North American market.
Rules for the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP) say if an immigrant establishes a company in Regina or Saskatoon, they have to employ at least two Canadians or permanent residents.
That's potentially 600 new jobs at Brightenview's Global Trade and Exhibition Centre (GTEC).
But the premier's office has confirmed that rule doesn't apply to businesses at the GTH even though it is inside city of Regina limits.
A spokesperson explained that's because according to its founding legislation, the GTH is designated as its own municipality, like an airport authority or a First Nations reserve.
"It is accurate to say that because the business would be outside of Saskatoon or Regina there are no employee requirements," a spokesperson wrote in an email to CBC.
The NDP says the provincial government is so desperate to make the Chinese megamall successful, that it's manipulating Saskatchewan's immigration rules.
"It's somewhat shocking to see our government so twisting it out of its original intent," said NDP MLA Cathy Sproule. "Clearly this [hiring exemption] is for communities like Assiniboia and Humboldt."
She said it's surprising that "here we have an entity — a government created entity within city limits geographically — that's using these exemptions."
CBC asked the government for an interview, but it declined.
Megamall promoted as 'in Regina'
Promoters of Brightenview's GTEC in China advertise this exemption from hiring Canadians as one of the project's benefits.
They also tout the fact the facility is in the city of Regina.
In fact on Wechat, a popular social media platform in China, the government of Saskatchewan itself says "the GTH is located in Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan." It goes on to point out "the city centre is 11 kilometres away."
This really highlights for me the desperation at the GTH and within the Sask. Party. - Cathy Sproule, NDP MLA
This is consistent with a map on the city of Regina website, which clearly shows the GTH is within city limits. In addition, the government's own land registry says all of the property located in the hub is within the city of Regina.
The NDP wonders why the government decided to deem the GTH as exempt from the hiring rule.
"Here they are going out of their way to ensure that Saskatchewan people are not employed and that foreign SINP workers and entrepreneurs are going to be hired over Saskatchewan people," said Sproule. "I don't think that was the original intent of the SINP."
Lower bar for GTH businesses
The province's immigration rules also grant immigrant businesses established outside of Regina or Saskatoon other benefits, which apply to the GTEC project, too.
If an immigrant sets up a business in Regina or Saskatoon they have to invest at least $300,000. But in the rest of the province, the minimum investment is $200,000.
In addition, when new immigrants establish a business in rural Saskatchewan, they get extra points that can help them qualify for immigration.
The province assesses the applications of would-be immigrants based on 10 criteria, ranging from investment amount to language skills. The applicants are granted points based on those criteria and the people with the greatest number of points are invited to apply.
Chinese nationals who establish a business outside of Regina and Saskatoon get an extra 15 points out of a total of 160 points. In a recent draw, applicants with 80 points and over were invited to apply.
Sproule said the fact the government is giving all of these advantages to a company just 11 minutes from Regina's city centre is unacceptable.
"This really highlights for me the desperation at the GTH and within the Sask. Party," she said.