Frus­tra­tion grows

Olive Crane’s at­tempts to get PNP in­for­ma­tion voted down by com­mit­tee’s Lib­eral ma­jor­ity

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - Front Page - BY TERESAWRIGHT twright@the­guardian.pe.ca

Op­po­si­tion leader’s at­tempts to get PNP in­for­ma­tion voted down by com­mit­tee.

The Op­po­si­tion again tried Thurs­day to get more in­for­ma­tion from the au­di­tor gen­eral about the Pro­vin­cial Nom­i­nee Pro­gram — this time about the prov­ince’s po­ten­tial li­a­bil­ity for PNP re­funds — but once again it was de­feated by the Lib­er­als.

Over the past sev­eral weeks, the pub­lic ac­counts com­mit­tee has been prob­ing Au­di­tor Gen­eral Colin Younker’s re­port on his in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the con­tro­ver­sial PNP.

Younker’s find­ings point to a num­ber of spe­cific in­stances where he found rules were bro­ken or sidestepped by PNP direc­tors and other se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

Week af­ter week, the Op­po­si­tion mem­bers on the com­mit­tee try to get more in­for­ma­tion about the ad­min­is­tra­tion of this pro­gram.

But ef­forts to get de­tails are con­tin­u­ally voted down by the Lib­eral ma­jor­ity on the com­mit­tee.

On Thurs­day, there were many queries on the still unan­swered ques­tion about who is li­able to pay back im­mi­grants who may with­draw their applications due to a pos­si­ble five-year wait for Cana­dian visas.

That is be­cause P.E.I. pushed through as many applications as it could be­fore the fed­eral gov­ern­ment changed the pro­gram’s rules on Sept. 2.

That has caused a back­log of applications at visa posts, which fed­eral of­fi­cials have ad­vised will lead to years of de­lays.

Younker states in his re­port it is likely many im­mi­grants will with­draw their applications due to th­ese de­lays and want their money back. But the money has al­ready been in­vested and spent.

The prov­ince has a con­tin­gency fund for this sce­nario, but only enough for a seven per cent loss.

If a larger per­cent­age de­cides the wait is too long, there are ma­jor li­a­bil­ity con­cerns about who would pay the mil­lions in the dif­fer­ence.

Younker said Thurs­day he was given a draft of a le­gal opin­ion sought by the gov­ern­ment from a law firm out­side P.E.I., but has been told a fi­nal word on the mat­ter is still be­ing looked into.

In the mean­time, many busi­nesses are con­cerned they might be held li­able, since the prov­ince and at least one in­ter­me­di­ary have said they don’t be­lieve they are.

Op­po­si­tion Leader Olive Crane moved a mo­tion ask­ing to have the le­gal firm that pro­vided its opin­ion to gov­ern­ment ap­pear be­fore the com­mit­tee. That was de­feated by the six Lib­eral MLAs.

She also moved mo­tions to have the fed­eral deputy min­is­ter and fed­eral pro­gram di­rec­tor Heidi Smith from Cit­i­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Canada ap­pear to dis­cuss the po­ten­tial li­a­bili- ty. That too was de­feated.

Frus­trated, Crane told the com­mit­tee she doesn’t un­der­stand why in­for­ma­tion is be­ing blocked.

“ There’s all kinds of is­sues the au­di­tor is rais­ing, I guess I’m not sure why we’re here as a com­mit­tee be­cause we can’t ask ques­tions, and when we ask ques­tions and we can’t get in­for­ma­tion back,” Crane said.

“ We’re sup­posed to be pub­lic ac­counts. We’re sup­posed to be hold­ing gov­ern­ment ac­count­able, this gov- ern­ment has ad­min­is­tered this pro­gram from the beginning and it’s dis­ap­point­ing that no one seems to want to take our job se­ri­ously for the prov­ince.”

The only mo­tion that was suc­cess­ful Thurs­day was one moved by Lib­eral MLA Paula Big­gar to en­dorse the find­ings of the au­di­tor gen­eral.

Com­mit­tee chair Jim Bagnall called this a “ bread-and-but­ter mo­tion.”

It passed unan­i­mously.

Guardian photo

Con­ser­va­tive MLA Jim Bagnall, chair of the leg­is­la­ture’s pub­lic ac­counts com­mit­tee, pre­sides over a meet­ing Thurs­day.

Guardian photo

Op­po­si­tion Leader Olive Crane speaks dur­ing a meet­ing of the pub­lic ac­counts com­mit­tee in Char­lot­te­town Thurs­day. Crane raised a num­ber of ques­tions about the con­tro­ver­sial Pro­vin­cial Nom­i­nee Pro­gram.

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