Hamm wanted immigrants on the cheap, MLAs told
Plan led to controversial immigration program, deputy minister says
By DAVID JACKSON Provincial Reporter
The Chronicle Herald
Wed. Oct 15 – 2:03 PM
Get more immigrants to Nova Scotia, but don't spend taxpayers' money doing it were the marching orders the previous Hamm government gave civil servants early this decade that resulted in the province's flawed immigration program now the subject of a lawsuit and RCMP review.
Deputy economic development minister Paul Taylor told the public accounts committee this morning that the relatively new Hamm government, elected in 1999, recognized the need to boost the numbers in Nova Scotia's labour force.
But the Tories' mandate was wrestling down a budget deficit, and government was in the business of getting smaller, not bigger, he said.
“Don't hire people, don't spend government money out of your budget, but get those numbers up,” Mr. Taylor said of the department's assignment.
“Obviously, the solution was to find a way to hire somebody to do it without spending money on the contract, and hence the program that was arrived at was a program that would use money from the immigrants themselves to allow the process to work.”
It led to the ill-fated economic stream of the provincial nominee program, a way of fast-tracking immigrants into Canada.
The province gave Cornwallis Financial Corp. an untendered contract to administer the program in 2002.
Immigrants paid $130,500 in fees, $100,000 of which was to cover a six-month mentorship at a Nova Scotia business. The immigrant was to work there at least six months and be paid at least $20,000.
The province ended the contract with Cornwallis in June 2006 after problems started to emerge. Cornwallis is suing the province.
Mr. Taylor said the provincial government simply didn't have the expertise in-house to handle the complicated issue of immigration when it first decided to put an emphasis on it. The situation became even more complex in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, he said.
Liberal MLA Keith Colwell was incredulous that the province basically handed the entire program to a private company.
“Hindsight is 20/20 of course … but it doesn't make sense that the proper staff weren't put in place or people provided to the staff to train them properly to do these things,” Mr. Colwell said.
Mr. Taylor agreed that, looking back, such a complicated file should have been kept in-house.
The province first established the Office of Immigration in April 2005, and it took control of the program in July 2006.
Mr. Taylor said there is a silver lining in the breakdown of the program, and that's the expertise now developed in immigration staff.
“We are now blessed with some of the most professional immigration people in the country,” he said, singling out deputy immigration minister Elizabeth Mills, who was also at the committee meeting.
“That wouldn't have happened if we hadn't have run into the complications we did.”
Auditor General Jacques Lapointe has issued two reports on the program, and referred some items last month to RCMP for review. Both reports were highly critical, but also noted some success stories for immigrants and businesses and praised Office of Immigration staff for efforts in cleaning up the problems.
Ms. Mills said after the meeting that the program has hurt the province's image, but she also said that immigrants are still interested in coming to the province.
She said she expects the province to receive about 300 applications through the skilled worker, family, community-identifed, and international graduate categories this year, and that's without marketing them.
She said the office is working with employers, and will embark on an aggressive marketing program for those categories soon.
“Don't hire people…” “Obviously, the solution was to find a way to hire somebody to do it…” Do you people even understand english? Or do you have some kind of translator built into your heads that translates what you hear, into what you want to hear?
Do they honestly think passing blame to a former Premier will relieve them of any responsibility or accountability for their decisions? Give me a break! Neither Ms. Mills or Mr. Taylor deserve any accolades for their decisions, and they should both be ashamed about their decisions, the program, the outcome of the program and the impact it has had on the province and towards immigrants. Ms. Mills should not continue to be employed– people need to be held to account for their poor leadership and lack of program management skills. Shame on the Conservative government for allowing this to happen and to take advantage of immigrants. I'm embarrassed to be a Nova Scotian because of this, that is not how we should treat newcomers to our province.
Sounds to me like someone is looking for a scape goat!
Looks like some connected freinds got the last group of immigrants for some big bucks. How about doing it the right way advertise for immigrants that we need to fill jobs like Doctors nurses and medical tech. people. We have a sub class of people here drawing UI for 9 months a year.The can't take a job they got 20 years invested in watching soap opreas and can't leave home.
The government should learn a lesson. There is no free lunch. Let a private company to do government business without going through a tendering process is just wrong. The government tried to save money but got a black eye. How much does it now cost the taxpayer for all the legal expenses?
I agree with cdngirl. The tender process not only allows for budget considerations, it also allows for companies to outline how these things might work. Evaluating this information can flag up gaps in process in their review. If people are getting paid big salaries and pensions for positions of responsibility, then take that responsibility, don't pass the buck. Taxpayers end up cleaning the mess every time.
Cheap being the operative word. He is an embarrasment to Nova Scotia.
Richard Collis wrote:
Boy the Conservatives/Tories sure know how to pass t he buck. What about the MLAs who were appointed by Hamm to Ministers of this department? They obviously were not doing their jobs by allowing this to take place when they knew fully well what was taking place based on former Ministers who warned that something was not right. And yet the Ministers walk away with no responsibility for their actions or lack of. They didn't mind taking their hugh wages for being Ministers of Immigration and all their entitlements. Rodney MacDonald was one of those ministers who knew what was going on and yet he didn't have time to address the issue cause he was campainging for the position of Premier of NS… Cecil Clarke was another minister of this department and now he is Minister of Justice. Fage I believe was another. It is obvious that these appointed ministers are neither qualified or capable of running the departments to which they are appointed. It was John Hamm who appointed these puppetts…John Hamm knew what was wrong… And yet he has the gaul to be going through the province promoting Democracy? Hypocrites….everyone of them.
Whatever happened to 'Give me your poor, your hungry, and…your downtrodden?' Oh wait, that's New York in the U.S.A. Well, look where NY and NS are today. NY is a thriving place of opportunity and prestige, and NS is still home to backwards-thinking trailer trash and anti-Sunday shopping.
“NY is a thriving place of opportunity and prestige, and NS is still home to backwards-thinking trailer trash and anti-Sunday shopping.” – There called Christian Conservatives here in Nova Scotia. Why do anything yourself when you think “God” will do it for you. Most Nova Scotians don't want any immigrants they don't have the same religion so that makes them the devils people.