P.E.I. established the Provincial Nominee Program to increase and diversify the population. It should be noted that the maritime province has seen a decline in its local population. Potential immigrants were encouraged to open businesses through an entrepreneurial stream of the PNP.
In exchange for $150,000 and the promise of staying in the province for at least a year to start a business, wealthy newcomers were handed Canadian Permanent Residency Cards. In addition, they paid tens of thousands of dollars to island accountants, lawyers and agents.
An English program was needed for arriving immigrants. Susan Holmes was on a committee of experts determining which company would get that $4-million contract.
The committee found one company most suitable in both cost and experience. Holmes said that the committee was ordered to split the contract between two companies. Incidentally, one of the companies had close friends in the P.E.I. government.
Thousands of immigrants, mainly from mainland China took their Permanent Residency Cards and fled for cities like Vancouver or Toronto.
They left empty businesses and broken promises made to the Provincial Nominee Program. They also left a lot of money.
In a 10-year span, P.E.I.’s treasury had around $120-million worth of deposits left behind. That’s a lot of new money in a province of just over 150,000 people.
The PNP’s Cora Plourd worked to create
Money was being thrown to businesses and only auditor general review of the program found several high-ranking bureaucrats also received PNP money. In the list was the deputy minister of the PNP and his wife. He was later ordered by ex-premier Robert Ghiz to pay back the money.
Plourd started taking note of who was getting how much money with her colleague, Svetlana Tenetko. The pair eventually joined up with Susan Holmes.
After pushing back against what they felt was political favoritism, none of the three women had their work contracts renewed. So they stood up publicly.
In 2011, Cora, Susan and Svetlana held a news conference to go public with their allegations, claiming that PNP funds were being misused.
The Liberal party in power at the time reacted swiftly, releasing personal information about the three whistle blowers to the media.
Six years later, a report by the P.E.I. Privacy Commissioner found the provincial government responsible for the breach of the privacy rights of the three women.
In her decision, the privacy commissioner found that Economic Development, the Premier’s Office and the Executive Council violated P.E.I.’s privacy legislation.
Now, the three women have launched a lawsuit against those they believe breached their privacy rights.
In the claim, Cora and Svetlana allege they were regularly pressed to approve PNP applications of those who didn’t meet the criteria but did have ties to the provincial government. The three women are suing for damages including loss of wages.