Immigration program undergoes reforms
The Provincial Nominee Program was criticized by the auditor general this year
The Progressive Conservative government is hoping changes to its Provincial Nominee Program will start generating more interest in the immigration program, which was criticized by the auditor general earlier this year.
The provincial government has witnessed a significant decline in the number of applications to the nominee program since it began requiring a $75,000 deposit from immigrants who wanted to be part of the program.
The Office of the Auditor General investigated the program in its report earlier this year and criticized how the provincial government was not tracking the immigrants that went through the program.
Post-Secondary Education and Labour Minister Martine Coulombe said her department is putting in place annual evaluations and a system that will better track applicants.
"We made lots of changes in our department and I feel that it's going much better in this area," Coulombe said.
The immigration program allows the provincial government to "nominate" immigration applicants willing to start a business and then they are fast-tracked by the federal government through the immigration process.
However, the problem is that many successful applicants were paying their fee, moving to New Brunswick and then quickly relocating elsewhere in Canada.
After the provincial government instituted the $75,000 fee, the number of applicants dropped off dramatically.
Since then, only 36 applicants have paid the deposit fee for entrepreneur or skilled-worker nominations, which is far below Ottawa's cap of 625 per year. The provincial government says there are enough applicants on waiting lists to eventually reach the capped amount.
The provincial government said it is reviewing the "core functions" of the provincial nominee program as part of the spending review process.
But Coulombe said despite the low numbers and the problems, there's no way the program will be eliminated altogether.
"Be sure: we will never stop it," she said.
The auditor general recommended monitoring nominees for three years, a policy that is still not in place.
"We support the recommendation. We will work forward to support this. But it's a big challenge to keep people in our province," Coulombe said.