Immigrant deposits boost treasury by $18M

Immigrants to P.E.I. who defaulted on their deposits guaranteeing they would stay in the province and learn English added $18 million to provincial revenues in 2011-12.

Provincial Nominee Program continues to bring in cash for P.E.I. government

The provincial treasury is $18-million richer today thanks to Immigrants to P.E.I. who defaulted on their deposits guaranteeing they would stay in the province and learn English.

Wes Sheridan says he would rather see immigrants stay than give up on their deposits. (CBC)

The money shows up in the latest records from public accounts.

The amount of money involved was unusually large last year, stemming from an unusually large number of immigrants rushed through the old PNP just before it was shut down in 2008. Each immigrant had to make a deposit of $25,000 guaranteeing they would stay in the province, and $20,000 guaranteeing they would learn English to a certain proficiency.

But many immigrants did not meet those conditions and forfeited their deposits. Many never turned up on P.E.I. at all.

Despite the budget boost, Finance Minister Wes Sheridan said he'd rather see the immigrants stay on the Island.

"Having them stay here, buying homes and vehicles, and living here and contributing to the economy, is much more advantageous," said Sheridan.

"What we want here is our population growth. We want these real contributors to our economy to stay here."

Sheridan said P.E.I.'s immigrant retention rate is improving. The most recent figures show a retention rate of 56 per cent.

'Fiscal mismanagement'

The Progressive Conservative Opposition says given all that extra revenue, it's shocking government still ran up a $75 million deficit.

News of the value of immigrant deposits to provincial revenue is further evidence of the government's fiscal mismanagement, says finance critic James Aylward. (CBC)

"It honestly looks like we have a treasurer that's using his MasterCard to pay off his Visa. The fiscal mismanagement of this government is just astounding," said finance critic James Aylward.

The sharp influx of immigrants to P.E.I. through the old Provincial Nominee Program will be over this year. With that decline, Sheridan said the province can expect to collect a lot less money through these so-called good faith and language deposits in the coming years.