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Ottawa moves to tighten provincial immigration program Add to ...

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is setting out more stringent standards for the way provinces pick immigrants, even as he lauds the strategy as a success and economic boon.

The Provincial Nominee Program, which allows provinces to select their own quota of immigrants based on local economic needs, has received plaudits for turning Prairie provinces into migrant magnets.

But its record is far spottier out east: Incarnations of the program in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have been beset by allegations of corruption, scathing auditors-general reports and multimillion-dollar settlements paid to immigrants claiming they’d been bamboozled by misleading claims. Concerns around investor streams of the program spread to Manitoba, where the Auditor-General is conducting her own review pre-emptively.

The program has expanded significantly and is changing the face of immigration in Canada, sending newcomers to regions in need of tradespeople rather than urban hubs where highly skilled immigrants often can’t get a job.

An evaluation of the nominee program, to be released Thursday, indicates Ottawa wants to have a more direct hand in ensuring the initiative works the way it wants it to.

Provinces will need to provide evidence they need the workers they pick and they’ll have to more closely monitor visa offices abroad, “including [for] fraud detection,” according to a summary provided to The Globe by a government source.

The summary also states that nominated immigrants will need to meet minimum language standards before immigrating. It recommends putting a “monitoring and reporting framework” in place to ensure provinces meet “agreed-upon performance indicators.” The suggestion is that failure to do so would have consequences on those provinces’ programs.

Mr. Kenney hinted at this leash-tightening in an interview with The Globe late last year. The program is a success, he said, but “we do have some concerns.”

“We want to make sure the provinces are managing the program with proper due diligence and proper integrity. We need to continue working with the provinces in that respect,” he said, making special reference to immigration consultants in Maritime provinces’ investor streams as a cause for concern.

“They’re approaching people overseas who have no intention of settling in Atlantic Canada,” he said. “That’s the kind of thing that we need to be mindful of and that’s one of the reasons we are not going to continue with the rate of growth in the program over the past few years until we’re able to sit down with the provinces and make sure our concerns are addressed.”

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