By Salman Siddiqui
While all major Canadian political parties agree that Canada’s economic survival depends on robust immigration policies, investment immigration professionals hope that the next Canadian government to emerge following the upcoming Sept. 20 election might launch a federal-level entrepreneur and investor program to give a boost to the post-pandemic economy.
Last month, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau surprised his political opponents when he called for a snap election in the middle of his second term in office, citing the need for giving Canadians a say over how the country should make its post-pandemic recovery; his political opponents, however, saw the move as an attempt by his minority party to gain a majority stake in the House of Commons.
According to recent opinion polls, Trudeau, who is the leader of the minority Liberal Party, is set for a tight race with the Conservative Party leader Erin O'Toole.
CANADA NEEDS AN INVESTOR PROGRAM
“The previous Conservative government cancelled the investor program and no one has introduced a new one…Canada is in desperate need of an investor program and, hopefully, after the election the new government, which ever one that will be, will seriously consider introducing such a program,” Green said.
Some investment immigration professionals say the provincial nominee programs aren’t as successful as they could be.
“The majority of them begin with a person entering Canada on a work permit hoping that their business will be successful,” Green said.
“It is my hope that with a new government in Canada and the new mandate, they will concentrate more on a federal entrepreneur and investor program with input from the provinces,” Green added.
DIFFERENT PARTIES, DIFFERENT PRIORITIES
Antonin Favreau, founder of Favreau Law Firm, said each Canadian political party has a different immigration priority.
“We would expect Conservatives to be more interested in the economic programs but the [former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen] Harper era proved the opposite [which saw the] closure of FIIP [Federal Immigrant Investor Program].
“Sadly, none of the party is interested in economic immigration. Liberals and NDP [New Democratic Party] want worker immigration, Bloc Québécois want French immigration, Conservative want less immigration in general and Green party, nobody really knows,” Favreau said.
In any case, he said he did not expect any changes in Canada’s immigration policies towards investors and entrepreneurs “whoever wins”.
Mathieu Simard, who is the director and founder of Simard & Associates Ltd., said: "While both main parties have always welcome foreign investors and entrepreneurs immigration, the Conservative Party have stressed the importance of economic immigration while the Liberals have focused on the plan to resettle 20,000 vulnerable Afghans threatened by the Taliban and forced to flee Afghanistan."
Canada offered to take in thousands of Afghan refugees following the collapse of the Afghan republic government.
Simard added: "If Liberals win, we think they will continue to implement the same programs since they have been elected in 2015 which is focusing to bring immigrants in less populated areas of Canada.
“The Conservative [party] wants to have better use of the existing resources at IRCC [Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada] and simplify the application process, which could help to reduce the very long processing delays for investors/entrepreneurs categories."
START-UP VISA LIKELY TO STAY
At the moment, immigrant entrepreneurs looking to set up a business in Canada can apply for the start-up visa program, the fees for which starts from 2,075 Canadian dollars; processing times are also relatively short, anywhere from between a year to 16 months.
All an applicant needs to show in order to become eligible for this visa is that their business plan is backed by designated bodies, which endorse the view that the applicant’s business is not just innovative but would also create jobs for Canadians.
The current government is currently promoting the start-up visa program, which so far has been successful for Canada.
FATE OF PROVINCIAL NOMINEE PROGRAMS
Canadian Immigration lawyer Julien Tétrault, who is the president of JTH Lawyers Inc. based in Montreal, said unlike federal programs like the start-up visa, provincial immigration programs depend on temporary rights.
“Generally speaking, immigration to Canada is a federal competence, with the notable exception of the Quebec province, which is the only Canadian province that has full control over selection of their own economic immigrants,” Tétrault said.
“Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP) are all provincial programs (BC PNP, Manitoba PNP, Ontario PNP, etc) based on special temporary rights from the federal government of Canada and may be shut down without prior notice by Canadian government.
“Federal programs, such as the start-up visa program, are more straightforward pathways for entrepreneurs and investors wishing to get permanent residence in Canada,” Tétrault added.
CANADA NEEDS IMMIGRANTS
Even though the pandemic has caused severe delays in the processing of immigrant applications, Canada has made it clear it needs immigrants to keep the economy running. Although the snap election might end up with a different party in power, the policy to continue welcoming immigrants in large numbers is expected to continue, albeit the focus on certain skills and professions may differ, depending on who gains power eventually.
Trudeau’s Liberal party government has strived to increase the number of immigrants in the country. As recent as August, the country’s immigration minister had said that Canada was aiming to bring in at least 400,000 immigrants into the country this year, while between 2021 and 2023, the aim is to welcome around 1.2 million new immigrants.
Favreau said he expects the immigration targets of bringing in 400,000 immigrants this year and subsequent years to stay, more or less, the same. “Yes, the plan is a three-year plan so usually they will follow it. Everybody was full of hope when Liberals came back in 2015, but IRCC have never been as bad as it is now in 2021,” Favreau said.
Green, however, said: “The Liberal government has increased the target for immigrants like no other previous government has. It is my hope that with the Liberal government, they will consider looking at an investor and entrepreneur program. Canada desperately needs such program, especially to assist in funding various projects across Canada.”
Tétrault cautioned against delaying immigration plans because of the election. “Canada is a land of immigration and all political parties would acknowledge that fact, hence the result of the upcoming elections should have no impact for foreign investors and entrepreneurs.
“This being said, immigration programs may evolve with time, and a program open today may not be open again tomorrow: for this reason, delaying a decision to immigrate always involves the risk of conditions changes,” he said.
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