Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says Quebec is "once again" getting special treatment from the federal government, after learning an immigration program axed in this week's budget will continue in Quebec.
Mr. Wall made the comments Wednesday as reaction to the federal budget continued to roll out. Among its many provisions was the cancellation of the Immigrant Investor Program, which was essentially a fast-track to permanent residency for wealthy foreigners willing to invest in Canada.
Ottawa argued the program was ineffective. "This is not a program that was achieving its objectives. Canadian citizenship and permanent residency is not for sale," Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said Wednesday in a statement released by his office. But the program will endure in Quebec – under the Canada-Quebec Accord, the province has authority over selecting its immigrants, and appears set to keep the Immigrant Investor system.
"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," the minister said, adding: "But the Quebec program is not achieving its objectives."
Nonetheless, Mr. Wall is crying foul, saying the government shouldn't cancel the program if it leaves provinces with different options.
"Based on what we know right now, we have, again, Quebec being treated differently than the rest of the country… What I am concerned about here is more asymmetry in the federation, where Quebec is going to get a different deal that the rest of us," the premier, who leads the right-wing Saskatchewan Party, told reporter Wednesday.
It's unclear how many immigrants the program actually brought to Saskatchewan, but Mr. Wall said the money they invested helped spur the development of 1,339 homes and other residences at a time when the province faces a housing crunch. Mr. Alexander, however, had doubt the program was as effective as Mr. Wall indicated.
"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," he said.
Mr. Wall said he'll ask that Saskatchewan get the same treatment as Quebec, in hopes of saving the program, but doesn't expect that to happen.
"I'm just stating for the record today a grave concern that what's good enough for the rest of Canada is apparently not good enough for the province of Quebec, and I think the people of Canada – and the people of Saskatchewan – are tired of examples where one province, the Province of Quebec, is treated differently, and has certain advantages in this case that are not available to the rest of the country," he said.
The budget also cancelled the Entrepreneur Program. Both it and the Immigrant Investor program had been suspended, federally, for a year or more. People who have already applied, and not been accepted, will simply have their fees and applications returned.
They will be replaced with an immigrant Investor Venture Capital Fund pilot project, which will require "a real and significant" investment, but said details will be released in the coming months. Mr. Wall said he looks forward to hearing about the pilot project.