Towns concerned about PNP changes
As more immigrants settle in small towns in P.E.I., impact of PNP changes remains unclear
Administrators with two smaller municipalities in P.E.I. are in the dark as to how changes to the provincial nominee program will affect migration to their towns.
The chief administrative officers of Montague and Kensington told The Guardian they have seen a rise in interest from prospective immigrants in the last year. Both said they are unclear whether the changes will mean fewer immigrants will look to settle in their towns.
The province announced on Wednesday it would be ending the controversial entrepreneurship stream of the PNP program. The move followed low retention numbers as well as two investigations into immigration fraud by the Canada Border Services Agency involving as many as 1,000 applicants.
Potential PNP applicants can still apply as entrepreneurs under a work permit stream. But, applicants will only receive their permanent residency after
running a business for one year. Applicants will still be given additional points if they live in rural communities but will no longer be required to pay a $200,000 deposit to the provincial government.
Andy Daggett, CAO of Montague, said the town has endorsed between 40 and 50 PNP applicants in the last year. Of those, between 10 and 15 have received their permanent residency, a step towards citizenship.
But Daggett has heard little about whether the changes to the PNP will cut off interest from potential immigrants interested in moving to Montague.
“It was really sprung on us,” he said.
Facing criticism of the PNP, the province introduced changes to the Island’s provincial nominee program late last year, which allocated a higher point score to potential immigrants who agreed to live and establish businesses in rural communities. The province claimed this “expression of interest” model, which ranked applicants based on their language skills, age, business experience and education, would bring in immigrants better suited to P.E.I.
Last year’s changes result in a flood of calls from immigration agents to staff from small towns like Montague, O’Leary and Kensington.
“For the first 10 years that I was here, I didn’t know any of the agents. I’d never heard of them and they had never contacted me,” Daggett said.
“Then in one week I had two different agents contact me about setting up meetings. In the next week I had another agent or two contact me.”
Daggett said the additional workload was considerable but may have been worthwhile.
“I’m excited about seeing more people coming to, settling in and hopefully loving this area as much as most of us do,” he said.
Geoff Baker, CAO for the Town of Kensington, was more critical. As the town’s only staffer, he said he met with over 60 PNP applicants over a 90-day period after the changes were introduced. The town ended up endorsing only six individuals under the PNP. Only two have been approved.
Baker said he stopped meeting with potential PNP applicants in July.
“In a lot of smaller municipalities, there is a singular staff person who now had to take on the responsibility for this program in addition to everything else that they had to do,” Baker said.
“The question council have always asked me, from the very beginning as we made our way through the program, was ‘where all these people before Kensington was worth points?’ “