Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program for business
a success or failure?
Before I examine the recent news about the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program for business, it is necessary to put recent news into some perspective. It is in some ways a truism that we only want to read good stories about the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program. Of course, all readers are concerned when they hear criticism of MPNP in any form because the program means so much for the growth of the Filipino community in our province. We all want the program to continue because it has become the most effective way of bringing friends and close family to the province. This does not mean that MPNP should not be questioned or criticized. Before readers start to panic, the question should not be, “Is the sky falling down?” or “Is the MPNP ending tomorrow?” Rather we should be concerned with the validity of the stories and only then what might happen to Manitoba’s control of immigration to the province if or when the criticism proves to be correct.
The first week of December 2012 was scarred in some ways by the public release of stories about the failure of the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program for Business. This is not the MPNP for skilled workers, who most of us have some experience with, but rather the separate program for immigrant investors. A former manager of the program and the Manitoba Progressive Conservative immigration critic Bonnie Mitchelson were quick to criticize the provincially run program amid reports that foreign investors nominated for permanent residence by the Manitoba provincial government did not actually meet their responsibilities to the province.
“When a program is only 20% success, I think that’s a pretty abysmal track record,” the PC critic said. “Somebody has to take a close look at it and if it’s not working, should we not be making some changes?”
The charge is that a significant number of immigrant investors (20% claims Mitchelson) who have paid the $75,000 deposit to enter Manitoba have not actually met their obligation to invest a minimum of $150,000 into a Manitoba business. The office of the federal immigration Minister Jason Kenny also expressed concerns about the negative reports. His press secretary stated: “These problems have to be addressed before increases in the program will be considered for any province. It is the responsibility of the Government of Manitoba to ensure that the individuals they nominate actually fulfill the province’s own requirements for the program.” The charges are serious and something that is being investigated by the provincial Auditor General whose report is expected by the spring of 2013.
The NDP government has been quick to respond to the criticism. Peter Bjornson, Manitoba’s Entrepreneurship, Training and Trade Minister, maintains that from the 878 nominees in the province for some time, 521 had successfully started a business, a 60% success rate.
The 20% number cited by critics, he explained, reflect all applicants to the business stream including those who have been declined or have withdrawn their application. “We know it is a successful program,” Bjornson said. “We know it will continue to be and we know we can find ways to improve it.”
Is it 20% or 60%? We are left to ponder both but the reality is that beyond rhetoric, we should reserve judgment until we know the findings of the Manitoba auditor general, Carol Bellringer whose staff is investigating the MPNP-B.
Has the federal immigration Minister jumped the gun by putting a hold on the provincial business program? It is far too early to conclude that provincial business immigration is a failure and we should be aware that there are many detractors desperate to take something away from the success of Manitoba’s provincial nominee programs. Remember the doubting Thomas who said (in a popular idiomatic expression), “where there is smoke there is fire.” No Thomas, sometimes there is just smoke. My hope is first that the Auditor General gets to the bottom of the facts. I also hope that the federal immigration department rethinks their initial reaction to the story and that if there are failings that they be corrected.
Immigration is too important to our community and our province. If there are real problems then address these and get on to the important work of building the provincial economy through immigration, both through the investor/business stream and the skilled worker stream. On behalf of my wife Lourdes Troncillo-Scott and myself: Manigong Bagong Taon.