Canadian cash-for-visa program called into question

13 April 2016
A Quebec Immigrant Investor Program has been criticised due to its cost to Canadian taxpayers and its effect on the affordability of housing. The visa program enables wealthy foreigners to buy into a life in Canada.
The program gives thousands of millionaires the opportunity to move to Quebec, providing they can pay an interest-free investment of $800,000 (£438,880). It is projected that 1,900 individuals and their families will gain permanent residency by accessing the program this year.
However, recent data collected by Richard Kurland, a lawyer who works in this field, shows that a large number of immigrants who come through this program end up residing outside of Quebec - mainly in the Metro Vancouver area. The figures show that this included 2,600 who came through the program in 2008, which equates to 94% of the total awarded a place. Kurland stated: “At the end of the day, Quebec’s getting the cash but British Columbia’s (BC) getting the body.”
Kurland has stated that the actual increase in wealthy foreigners has an overall positive financial gain; due to the money they will then spend in the province. However, he has warned that one of the less positive aspects for Quebec residents is the impact on real estate prices. This is due to the fact that large numbers of millionaires buying up property every year inevitably drives up prices.
Kurland also believes that a proportion of the people given a place through the program do not pay correct taxes, due to the fact that they continue to receive money that has been transferred in from outside of Canada. Kurland said: “That’s not income earned here, it’s not taxable here.” He stated that this also means that BC is paying for the cost of education and health care, while Quebec ends up reaping the investment returns. Therefore, Kurland and many others have argued that BC needs to take a more aggressive stance and demand its share.
David Eby, a housing critic for the New Democratic Party, agreed that BC needs to start a dialogue with Quebec, stating: “As a matter of fairness, we’ve got some serious settlement issues here in British Columbia that are coming through your program. You’re getting $800,000, can you help us pay for things like language courses and other kinds of supports to help people here, including, potentially, to subsidise some housing here.” Kurland has called for BC to lobby the federal government to accept immigrants directly, and collect the corresponding loans centrally.
Shirley Bond, BC’s Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Minister, said that there needs to more comprehensive data collected regarding Quebec’s visa program and the potential impact it is having on other provinces, before any significant policy decisions can be made. Bond said: “If British Columbia needs more support in that area, then the federal government should take a look at that.”
However, Immigration Minister John McCallum said that the government is unable to restrict Quebec investors who come through the program from ultimately moving to Vancouver. McCallum did explain however that it might be possible for the capital city Ottawa to oversee the adjustment of settlement money, based on the final destination of the immigrants.


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