On Wednesday, the provincial government announced its intention to scrap the entrepreneur stream of the provincial nominee program (PNP). It’s a decision that’s well overdue. Despite ongoing federal investigations, government has repeatedly denied that there is anything wrong while simultaneously refusing to release documents that would allow the public to make that assessment. It’s no wonder that Islanders have lost confidence in this government’s ability to properly administer this stream of the PNP.
PEI’s immigration record is an ongoing source of embarrassment, and although it is tempting to pick apart everything that has been done wrong and point fingers, it’s important to consider the broader social, economic, and reputational impacts that might be missed in the headlines about the mismanagement of the PNP.
For example, one unfortunate outcome is the damage done to immigrants and how they are welcomed in our community. Newcomers that have settled here through the PNP and other immigration programs have made positive contributions to the Island through their hard work, entrepreneurship, and willingness to share with us their rich cultural traditions. Yet, as a result of our failure to properly administer the entrepreneur program, some of these new Islanders have been viewed with suspicion and have felt less than wholeheartedly welcomed to our province, through no fault of their own.
Government also failed to adequately plan for the long-term impacts of dramatically increasing the levels of immigration and tying it to the requirement to open a business. This had led to sharp increases in the cost of rental commercial properties and residential housing. In our recently released Integrated Housing Framework, we identified one of the root causes of the current housing crisis as market distortions that are a direct result of aggressively pursuing population growth without an associated housing strategy. This failure to plan has put many vulnerable Islanders at risk of homelessness.
From a larger perspective, our national and international reputation has suffered. National media has repeatedly reported on problems with the program, and there are now two ongoing investigations into alleged immigration fraud. This government’s inaction and incompetence has resulted in significant damage to our reputation, at the same time that we are trying to promote the Island to international businesses and markets.
Over the next months and years we will no doubt hear a lot about government failures, and abuses within the system, and it is always valuable to learn from the mistakes of the past. Immigration has always been a part of the story of PEI. Our province can and should do better, as we move forward and work together to rebuild trust in our immigration system.