P.E.I.'s new immigration approach hurting service and retail sectors, business groups say


Workers may have to leave P.E.I. if they see no pathway to permanent residency here

Two of the Island's chambers of commerce say the province's plan to reduce immigration is hurting businesses, and has prompted hundreds of foreign workers to leave P.E.I. 

And a small restaurant in Summerside says it may have to close rather than expand as it had been planning, with three of its workers on the verge of leaving.

The provincial government announced in February that it is reducing its intake of potential permanent residents under the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) by 25 per cent, and will focus on nominating workers in health care, child care and the building trades. 

The Summerside and Charlottetown chambers of commerce say that leaves many who work in retail and the service sector without a chance at permanent residency any time soon.

Kaley O'Brien, CEO of the Summerside Chamber of Commerce, said many of those workers have left their jobs, and the province.  

"We have employers that can no longer staff certain positions," O'Brien said.

"They're having a struggle keeping the workforce that they do have because employees are scared. Employees are scared they're no longer qualified for their [permanent residency], and that they don't see a future here in Prince Edward Island, and they're leaving."

Recruitment now harder

The chambers say the immigration changes are also making it tough to attract new foreign workers who aren't likely to come without a pathway to permanent residency on P.E.I. 

"We urge the government to work collaboratively with business, chambers, and stakeholders to develop solutions and address the challenges posed by population growth without compromising the vitality of our economy and the quality of services provided to residents and visitors alike," said Bianca McGregor, CEO of the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce, in a news release.

The two business groups are calling on government to reassess its plan.

'I might have to shut down'

In Summerside, Harneet and Gurpreet Brar co-own the House of Spice. They had been hoping to start up another restaurant and open a store, but that plan looks doubtful now.

"We have two or three people who [wanted] to apply [through] PNP and immigration program," said Harneet Brar. "They're going to leave — I'll be out three employees like this.

"If I don't get employees, I might have to shut down."

"It's a little shocking to us," said Gurpreet Brar. 

On top of the loss of staff, Harneet Brar said the restaurant is also losing patrons as people who had been regulars leave the province to seek their fortunes elsewhere. 

Rajwinder Kaur is one employee planning to leave House of Spice rather than give up her dream of obtaining permanent residency.

"Everybody's talking about the changes and everybody's in the stress," Kaur told CBC News. 

She said she will try to find a job in health care or construction on P.E.I. to gain the experience she needs to continue qualifying for permanent resident status. 


In an emailed statement to CBC News on Monday, the P.E.I. government said it is not considering any immediate changes to its immigration policy.

"Given the pressures faced in critical sectors such as health care, education, among others identified as high-priority earlier this year, these are the temporary measures the province must undertake at this time like other jurisdictions," the statement reads.

"These measures are being monitored and will be adjusted when and where needed."

P.E.I.'s new immigration approach hurting service and retail sectors, business groups say | CBC News