From PEI’s paper today:

Immigrant money pays for bonuses

TERESA WRIGHT
The Guardian

Government employees who processed Provincial Nominee Program applications earlier this year were paid extras and bonuses for their work, but this money did not come from public funds, it was immigrants’ money, says Innovation Minister Richard Brown.

The bonuses were given due to the high volume of applications processed between April and September when the program ended. Approximately 1,800 applications were put through during this time.

“Employees worked a lot of overtime, gave up their weekends, gave up their summer, and overtime and some bonuses were issued,” Brown said.

These bonus payments came from fees collected from the immigrant investors, he said.

The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) offered expedited Canadian visas for immigrants who were willing to invest $200,000 in an Island company.

One of the requirements of the program states potential PNP immigrant investors must come to P.E.I. for an interview with local program officers. But many of the immigrants in China and Dubai were having difficulty procuring travel visas in a timely fashion, so Island Investment Development Inc. arranged for some employees to travel to these countries to conduct the interviews.

Those immigrants whose interviews were conducted overseas were charged around $2,500 each as an interview fee, Brown told The Guardian. It was these interview fees that paid for the trips and the bonuses given to staff, Brown said.

“It wasn’t a matter of paying out of government funds — it was paid out of the (interview fees). No taxpayer money was spent in this process.”

The program ended on Sept. 2 of this year when the federal government changed some of the passive investment rules in the national Immigration Act. This disallowed immigrants to invest in a business without taking an active role in it.

P.E.I.’s partnership option of the PNP fell into the ‘passive investment’ category and had to end when the rules came into effect Sept. 2.

Brown said he never wanted it to end. He lobbied Immigration Canada to allow P.E.I.’s program to remain in effect for another five years. When that request was turned down, Brown said that’s when the decision was made to put as many applications through as possible before the deadline for the changes came into effect.

That’s why over 1,800 applications went through, he said.

“As part of that, the request went out to staff that (said) ‘We only have a few months here to process a number of applications so we’ll give you overtime’ and there was some bonuses for processing,” Brown said.

But the federal government was not entirely happy with the volume of applications being pushed through just before the deadline.

“We raised concerns, for example, that applicants should be warned this sudden increase in applications would result in longer than normal processing times,” Karen Shadd, a spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration (CIC) told The Guardian.

“We also raised concerns about using an applicant’s money before their application to immigrate was approved by CIC.”

12/11/08

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