P.E.I. looks to foreign workers to maintain PNP immigration levels

The P.E.I. government plans to increase the number of foreign workers it sponsors for permanent Canadian residency and explore “additional avenues … to mitigate potential fraud” after a review of its provincial nominee program.

Fewer business-class immigrants in new plan, plus pledge to 'mitigate potential fraud'

The P.E.I. government plans to sponsor more foreign workers for permanent residency and fewer immigrant entrepreneurs over the next two years. (John Robertson/CBC)

The P.E.I. government plans to increase the number of foreign workers it sponsors for permanent Canadian residency as part of its overall plan to maintain immigration at the highest levels seen in a decade.

The labour folks that are coming in are putting down roots here, contributing to the culture of P.E.I.— Chris Palmer

A new internal review of the province's provincial nominee (PNP) program also recommends the province "explore additional avenues … to mitigate potential fraud."

The results of the review were posted on the government's website Monday.

More workers, fewer investors

The review projects an increase in the number of workers the province plans to sponsor to fill job vacancies with Island employers to 425 in 2019, nearly twice the number of workers the province sponsored in 2017.

Economic Development and Tourism Minister Chris Palmer says the province will improve monitoring under the PNP. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Over that same time period, the number of immigrant investors the province intends to sponsor as provincial nominees is expected to drop significantly.

P.E.I.'s Minister of Economic Development Chris Palmer says the shift in numbers and other program changes would increase immigrant retention rates, which have been the lowest in the country.

"[What] we're trying to get is to have those folks come to P.E.I. and stay in P.E.I.," Palmer said.

"The labour folks that are coming in are putting down roots here, contributing to the culture of P.E.I. and contributing to the economy of P.E.I."

Maintaining immigration levels

The province announced in September it was ending the controversial entrepreneur stream of its PNP in the wake of two separate investigations into alleged immigration fraud by Canada Border Services. The move also came after years of concerns out of Ottawa about the "potential misuse" of P.E.I.'s program.

The review shows the province projecting to maintain its PNP through the year 2020 at the current level of 1,070 nominations per year — plus family members — allocated by the federal government.

P.E.I. Provincial Nominees
2017 2018* 2019* 2020*
Business / Work Permit Stream 310 150 75-100 100-150
Labour 240 350 400-425 350-400
Express Entry 337 350 350 350
Atlantic Pilot 120 220 220 220
TOTAL 1,007 1,070 1,070 1,070

*Planned figures, based on federal allocation levels
Source: P.E.I. Office of Immigration

The province will still maintain one stream of the PNP for business-class immigrants — the work permit stream — which allows participants to enter the country on a temporary visa and operate a business for one year before the province will sponsor them.

That's the approach taken by every other province with the exception of New Brunswick.

P.E.I.'s work permit stream has actually existed since 2012, but up until now, only a handful of people were nominated through the program in any given year.

Jamie Aiken, CEO of Island Investment Development Inc, the Crown corporation that manages the PNP on P.E.I., explained the reduction in business-class immigrants is expected to be temporary as the province shifts over to its new model, and he said hundreds of families will continue to come through the old program over the next two years.

Detecting fraud

According to the review, the province will also "explore additional avenues with federal partners and counterparts in Canada to mitigate potential fraud."

One thing the review suggests is that the province seek information-sharing agreements with the federal government and other jurisdictions.

"We'll continue to improve the monitoring that we have been doing in the past," Palmer said.

"We will be measuring a lot of important pieces that will really help us validate whether this program is working well or not. That will be around retention, about where folks are living, where they're working, those kind of things."

Aiken said the province is looking to add two more staff to the half-dozen who currently monitor compliance under the PNP.

The review also recommends government increase the amount of time during the year the nominee must be present in the province from the current 183 days to 274 days.

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About the Author

Kerry Campbell

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Kerry Campbell is the provincial affairs reporter for CBC P.E.I., covering politics and the provincial legislature.