02/12/2014 03:52 EST | Updated 04/14/2014 05:59 EDT

Canada Budget Cuts 2014: Immigrant Investor Program Loss Angers Wall


REGINA - Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is frustrated that the federal government is scrapping the Immigrant Investor Program for all provinces except Quebec.

Wall said he knows Ottawa had concerns about whether the program was functioning properly.

But the premier said it was successful in Saskatchewan and attracted more than $160 million in investments that was used to build homes during a housing shortage.

"For Pete's sake," Wall told reporters Wednesday in Regina. "I understand they have to make decisions, if they don't think programs are being used correctly. I get that. We're doing the same thing. We're having budget finalization right now.

"But in order to come to that conclusion, you need to find out what's going on in places like Saskatchewan, before you decide to cut a program based on the fact that you don't think it's working. And had they done that, I think they would see that it works very well here. We're being responsible with the dollars and with the principles of the program and now we want to be treated the same as the province of Quebec."

The program offered permanent resident visas to investors with business experience, a net worth of at least $1.6 million and an investment of $800,000. But it had come under scrutiny for allowing people to essentially to buy their way into Canada.

The federal government put a moratorium on the program in 2012, and talked about revamping it. It was cancelled in Tuesday's federal budget.

Federal Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said in a news release that the program provided limited economic benefit to Canada. He said the government will replace it with other pilot programs that ensure immigrants who come to Canada "deliver meaningful benefits" to the economy.

Quebec's immigrant investor program operates separately from the rest of the country and remains in effect.

That's what irks Wall.

The premier said it's not acceptable for Ottawa to take one set of actions for the rest of Canada and a separate one for Quebec.

"Frankly, if we could get the same deal as Quebec, we would pursue it and ... I think we'll ask for that," he said.

"I have a feeling though that the answer will be no. Because we have seen in this country — notwithstanding what party is in power in Ottawa — a difference in the treatment when it comes to the delivery of programs or public services, or in this case immigrant investment, a different treatment for the province of Quebec than what the rest of us face.

"I'm not sure why again Quebec is going to continue to issue passports for immigrant investors while we cannot. It is a Canadian passport, not a Quebec passport. So if they have that right, so should we," Wall said.

Alexander did not want to be interviewed, but in an email said Quebec has autonomy on immigration.

"Yes, Quebec has its own program — the QIIP — but we all need to understand that Quebec has had autonomy on immigration — on the selection of immigrants not on issuing visas or passports — since 1991 and it will be up to Quebec to determine the future of that program, but the Quebec program is not achieving its objectives and in the case of Saskatchewan there is little or no evidence that any immigrant investors whose money was benefiting Saskatchewan to some extent were actually coming to Saskatchewan.

"We think people across Canada understand when abuse and fraud in immigration programs needs to be addressed."

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