The province says recent changes to the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP) are part of routine reviews, but Opposition Leader Ryan Meili believes recent changes are linked to an “immigration scam.”
“What we’ve heard from this reporting so far is people have been offered this opportunity to come to Saskatchewan, told they didn’t have to speak English, told they didn’t have to hire local people, told they didn’t have to run the business, and they get here and find out that’s not the case,” Meili said.
His comments follow a recent report into the Global Transportation and Exhibition Centre (GTEC), a wholesale mall owned by Brightenview at the Global Transportation Hub (GTH).
“You’ve got people trying to get their money back at Brightenview, the people who are being scammed. You’ve also got this whole project that the Sask. Party has been touting as the big saviour of the GTH,” Meili said.
Recently, the government changed SINP rules to exclude entrepreneur applications in multi-unit business condos like GTEC.
“We made the decision based on evidence and based on consideration that this was probably not a successful model for entrepreneurs to come into as if they were to come into another business model in the city for instance,” Immigration and Career Training Minister Jeremy Harrison said.
Harrison said these changes are being made due to two risk factors posed to SINP applicants.
First, Harrison said this process is dependent on immigration approvals at the provincial and federal level for those looking to set up shop at GTEC.
“That’s something that can’t be necessarily controlled by either level of government because of the fact there is a joint process for making nomination and approval,” Harrison explained.
“So there was a risk on that front considering the entire model, in a multi-unit condo facility, is based on it being relatively full.”
The second hurdle Harrison highlighted was integrating GTEC with the broader Regina-area business community.
“We weren’t sure there were going to be as high a degree of integration with the rest of the business community in that business model as there would be as there would be in other locations,” Harrison said.
Harrison said the province doesn’t monitor the success of entrepreneurs coming to Saskatchewan through SINP.
The minister said this was the result of months of government deliberation. He said other businesses were looking at the multi-unit condo model and the recommendation to review this type of application came from ministry officials.
Applications that were filed fitting this criteria before Nov. 6, when the changes were made, will still be reviewed, according to Harrison.
When asked about a cooperation agreement between the government and GTEC’s parent Brightenview, Harrison said he would not comment on a matter that is before the courts.
“What’s before the courts is whether or not they have to talk about it, so there’s a pretty sick irony there,” Meili said.
“They should just talk about the agreement and stop hiding these secret cooperation agreements they have with Brightenview.”
Brightenview was working on a similar project near Saskatoon, the Dundurn MegaMall, but references to that project were scrubbed from the company’s website in 2017.