Quebec can't keep wealthy immigrants
Published Tuesday, April 12, 2016 7:55AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, April 12, 2016 7:57AM EDT
The Quebec Immigrant Investor Program is doing a poor job of keeping wealthy newcomers in the province.
Critics say it has become little more than a cash grab for the provincial government as wealthy immigrants quickly move to Vancouver.
Under the program immigrants get fast-tracked through the citizenship process, and give the province of Quebec $800,000 as an interest-free loan for five years.
Immigrants must also say they intend to stay in Quebec, but whatever anyone tells the government, hardly anyone stays here.
Data collected by lawyer Richard Kurland shows 94 percent of Investment-class immigrants who arrived in 2008 now live outside of Quebec, with most of them living in Metro Vancouver.
Quebec accepted 2,600 investor-class immigrants that year, and is expecting to accept 1,900 rich foreigners in 2016 as permanent residents.
"At the end of the day, Quebec’s getting the cash but B.C.’s getting the body," Kurland said.
Kurland sees the influx of rich foreigners as a net-positive because of the money they spend in B.C., but said having hundreds or even thousands of millionaires scooping up property every year is bound to drive up real estate prices.
What’s more, Kurland believes some of the people admitted under the program pay little in taxes, living off money that’s transferred in from outside the country.
"That’s not income earned here, it’s not taxable here," he said. "So the family that has that income stream legally is entitled to pay no or low taxes and get all our social entitlements... even though they’re living in a million-dollar home with multiple fancy cars."
Kurland and others say it's time for B.C. to get more aggressive on having benefits transferred from Quebec.
"I think B.C. should be raising this issue with Quebec,” said David Eby, housing critic for the B.C. NDP. "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 subsidize some housing here."
Kurland said B.C. could also lobby the federal government, which used to run a similar program to Quebec’s across the country, to let it accept wealthy immigrants directly, and collect the corresponding loans.
B.C.’s Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Minister Shirley Bond said there isn’t enough data available on what impact Quebec’s program is having on other provinces, and she wants to see more collected before any big policy decisions are made.
"From our perspective it is important that we get the data," Bond said. "If British Columbia needs more support in that area, then the federal government should take a look at that."
Immigration Minister John McCallum told CTV News the federal government cannot prevent people from leaving Quebec, but Ottawa may re-examine how much money is given to each province according to the final destination of the immigrants.
With a file from CTV Vancouver