N.S. minister defends $60-million immigration boondoggle
A quarter of participants won't be refunded their $130,000 fee
By AMY SMITH
The Chronicle Herald
Thu. Oct 18 – 5:14 PM
Immigration Minister Carolyn Bolivar-Getson says the 203 immigrants who already completed a controversial business mentorship program arent in line for a refund even if they werent happy with their experience.
A total of 803 individuals paid $130,500 to come to Nova Scotia under the economic stream of the provincial nominee program, of which $100,000 was to go to a Nova Scotia company that had to employ the immigrant for a minimum of six months for a salary of at least $20,000 and provide mentorship.
The province is offering $100,000 refunds for up to 600 who have yet to start internships, but those whove already completed the program arent getting any cash back.
She said its unfortunate that some immigrants are dissatisfied.
Those individuals, they did get their six-month mentorship that they had signed up for, the minister said after cabinet Thursday.
The Office (of Immigration) did deliver on the commitment that we have made through the mentorship program and that is to provide business mentorship opportunity in Nova Scotia, to give them Nova Scotia work experience so that they can go out and be employable in the province.
The minister said she wont commit to carrying out a review of the program.
Vahid Kermanshah, who left his job as the manager of Tehrans largest department store, said his placement at a Shag Harbour fish company was a poor fit.
The Iranian man said the job, which was 250 kilometres away from his new home in Halifax, didnt provide him with the marketing experience he had been seeking. He said the idea of the program is a good one, but just poorly executed.
I am not angry. I am disappointed, he said.
Even so, Mr. Kermanshah, who moved his three sons to Nova Scotia and has plans to bring his wife and stepdaughter here in the next six months, said he doesnt want his $100,000 back. He said the $60 million collected by the nominees should go toward programs such as public transportation and health care in the province.
Premier Rodney MacDonald said the program has had its ups and downs.
Obviously there are those who did not feel they had gained as much as they should have over the program and thats really the reason we are making changes, the premier said.
If it was a success overall, we would be continuing with the program, so obviously it wasnt the success we wanted it to be.
He said those who have already gone through the program have already gotten the benefits and therefore wouldnt get the refund.
Mr. MacDonald said good experience can be gained from working at a fish company in Nova Scotia.
Theres a lot of high-quality fish product companies that are global in nature in our province that a great deal of management experience is required, the premier said.
Last week, the Office of Immigration posted details of a possible rebate for those who had yet to sign up for an internship as long as they live 12 consecutive months in Nova Scotia. They can also opt to take the mentorship instead of the rebate. The province stopped taking applications for the program as of June 2006 when the provinces contract with Cornwallis Financial Corp, which was picked through an untendered contract to deliver the services, expired.
Ms. Bolivar-Getson said her office is currently selecting the mentors for the program but said she couldnt say who was choosing them before the Cornwallis contract expired.
She said that because the matter is before the courts, she couldnt discuss why the rebates do not include interest.
New Democrat MLA Leonard Preyra said there should be some sort of review of the program, which he said was fatally flawed from the start.
He wasnt sure if it should be done by the legislatures public accounts committee, the auditor general or someone else.
Rebate quietly offered to immigrants