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Ask Tito Mike by Michael Scott  

PC government’s

MPNP application fee

by Michael Scott

The Progressive Conservative government has announced its intention to impose an application fee for its popular Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program (MPNP). Yes, there is going to be a significant charge for applying to immigrate to Manitoba and the reaction to the proposal has been swift and dramatic.

First, it is important to note that the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program for Business or MPNP-B has had an application fee for some time. Business applicants must pay $2,500 when they submit an application and post a performance bond of $100,000. This fee and the accompanying bond are not unique to business programs across the country – but what about the proposed change in charging an application fee for skilled worker applicants?

On the one hand we have Premier Brian Pallister presenting the case for his government. He said that skilled worker applicants, who are invited to apply (“Invitation to Apply”), would have to pay $500 in the New Year. His comments in support of the imposition of a fee are that 64 per cent of immigrants arriving in Manitoba arrive without a guaranteed job and that he is looking for ways to eliminate backlogs of applications. He spoke in broad terms about “innovative partnerships with industry and post-secondary institutions” to better match newcomers with in-demand jobs. His proposed strategy will focus on selecting workers “with high potential for early and strong attachment to the labour market” and also those who meet education, training and language requirements. All governments, at the provincial and federal level, use this kind of rhetoric. They all promote economic growth, prosperity and the speed of processing, as in the case of Express Entry. But how does charging a fee of $500 accomplish these ends?

The opposition was quick to criticize the move. Opposition Leader Flor Marcelino said that the imposition of a user fee would become a “disincentive” to applicants and not add a single newcomer to the province. Newly elected Liberal MLA Cindy Lamoureux added her voice to the opposition to a user fee and wondered why the PCs were “taking advantage of new immigrants…by taking money out of their pockets.” The PC Minister of education and training, Ian Wishart, said that his government was concerned about the qualifications of many newcomers who arrived without a job lined up and insisted that the revenue generated by the fee would be “reinvested in helping other immigrants and refugees here in Manitoba.”

There is so much to absorb and so little time to do so. It would appear from the absence of concrete information, or a white paper on the fees, that the PCs are narrowly focused on finding ways to generate new income. They have not provided any explanation for why a fee would first reduce backlogs or change the qualifications of those who arrive. They have provided nothing to justify vilifying newcomers who arrive without job offers. How has this impacted on the Manitoba economy and the economic reality that it needs immigration to fuel its growth? The province needs immigration. It remains a “have not” province and out migration is a major challenge. We must be careful not to push potential immigrant applicants away.

Other provinces, presumably, are faced with similar challenges but have responded differently. A rich province like Ontario, which not only remains a choice destination but it also does not have the same demographic issues, charges an application fee of $1,500 for their skilled workers. A quick survey of other provinces shows that the BC nominee program charges $550 for skilled worker applications while New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador charge $250. However, Nova Scotia, Alberta and Saskatchewan have zero charge. The application fee is not standard across the provinces nor even required by many.

So once again we should ask the government of Manitoba, “Why now and for what reason?” Is it only a way to add to general revenue and fulfil election promises? Is it a way to charge those who are the most vulnerable and less likely to complain? Readers are voters and community members and should take note of the efforts to impose the $500 fee and pay more attention to the efforts of MLA Flor Marcelino who held a meeting at Broadway Disciples United Church this week to bring more public awareness to the issue. Elections have consequences and new governments should be given a chance to fulfil their promises, but they still have a responsibility to explain themselves and not just issues platitudes about growth and backlog reduction without any real explanation or justification.

Michael Scott BA (Hon), MA, is a 30-year veteran of Canada Immigration and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program who works as an immigration associate with R.B. Global Immigration Consultants Ltd. (204) 783-7326 or (204) 227-0292. E-mail: mscott.ici@gmail.com.

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