QUÉBEC CITY, May 31, 2011 /CNW Telbec/ - The many economic and human benefits resulting from the arrival of thousands of financially independent immigrant families in Québec and elsewhere in Canadafully justify a sizable increase in the number of immigrant investors.
This is among the recommendations in the brief submitted today by economists Pierre Fortin and Pierre Emmanuel Paradis to members of the National Assembly Committee on Citizen Relations looking into Québec immigration planning for the 2012-2015 period.
"Immigrant investors still account for only 3.5% of new immigrants, and their number could be increased substantially without hindering the arrival of immigrants with other characteristics," they write in their brief.
Messrs. Fortin and Paradis also urge the Québec government to take the necessary means to clear the backlog of outstanding files, which they see as the key weakness in current management of the Québec Immigrant Investor Program. Waiting times under this program are having a negative effect on the number and quality of applications. "In 2009," they say, "the average wait was two-and-a-half years, compared with 14 weeks in the United Kingdom and one year in Australia. (…) As of December 31, 2010, a total of 11,843 files were still being processed - in Québec alone!"
The two economists also want the government to continue its efforts to encourage immigrant investor families to settle in Québec through integration and mentoring programs, following the example of a program recently launched by Investissement Québec, and to continue canvassing abroad. Many of these families are settling in British Columbia (49% compared with 22% in Québec), because that province is closest to Asia, the primary source of immigrant investors. But a majority of immigrant investors in Canada first arrive in Québec (about 60% since 2005). The financial assistance brought by the 60% of immigrant investors in Québec thus ends up entirely in Québec SMEs.
Referring to Investissement Québec data, the economists also remind the committee of the "substantial contribution to the economy" by immigrant investors. From 2001 to 2011, the total value of financial contributions under the program reached $500 million, benefiting 3,126 companies all across Québec. In 2009-2010 alone, projects implemented led to the creation of 2,600 jobs and the maintenance of 1,355 others.
Messrs. Fortin and Paradis say that having immigrant investor families settle here is the main source of the program's immediate economic impact. "Most immigrant investors are well educated and head active companies," they explain. "Many of them move and establish their families in Canada while pursuing their business activities at the international level. (…) The usual pattern is for their children to enter the Canadian school system, probably achieving high levels of education."
Québec's Immigrant Investor Program
The program was created in 1985 following successive efforts by then-ministers Gérald Godin and Louise Robic. It seeks to attract experienced businesspeople and their capital as a way of promoting economic growth. Immigrant investors provide Québec with funds for a five-year period. They do not decide where or how their money will be used. The three main conditions for benefiting from the program are:
- having a net worth of at least $1.6 million;
- agreeing to invest $800,000 at 0% interest for five years;
- having adequate management experience.
In writing their brief, Messrs. Fortin and Paradis relied on their own studies in this area and on studies by Marc Van Audenrode, Managing Principal of Analysis Group and an adjunct professor at Université de Sherbrooke; Roger Ware, professor of economics at Queen's University; and Natalia Mishagina and Anne-Catherine Faye, economists at Analysis Group.
Pierre Fortin is professor emeritus of economics at Université du Québec à Montréal and an affiliated expert at the Montréal office of Analysis Group (www.analysisgroup.com), an international firm that has been providing economic, financial and business strategy consulting services to law offices, private businesses and government organizations since 1981. Pierre Emmanuel Paradis is senior economist at Analysis Group.