N.S. immigration system working, but could be better, says auditor general

Kim Adair is Nova Scotia's auditor general (Michael Gorman/CBC - image credit)
Kim Adair is Nova Scotia's auditor general (Michael Gorman/CBC - image credit)

Nova Scotia's immigration program appears to be working, says the province's auditor general.

But Kim Adair wants the department responsible to have better documentation, consistent training for staff assessing applications and labour market needs, and more protection against potential fraud.

Adair told reporters on Tuesday that the performance audit her office did of the province's immigration and population growth under the Department of Labour, Skills and Immigration showed balanced results.

"A lot of our audit testing found that the processes were working," she told reporters.

Still, Adair said the 15 recommendations in her report would "further enhance" the work of the immigration branch and equip the office for its target of getting the population to two million people by 2060.

Working toward 2 million people

Adair's report shows that all of the 40 files reviewed as part of the provincial nominee program met the assessment standards, but overall there were inconsistencies observed in staff assessments of applications.

Without formal, mandatory training and no quality assurance process, Adair said problems could arise.

"Information gathered through a quality assurance process can also be used to continually improve the guidance provided to staff for reviewing applications to the provincial immigration programs," the report says.

Adair's report notes the province will need to attract about 25,000 people a year to meet the 2060 population target.

That will mean a need for services and support in place not only to get that many people here each year, but also to retain them.

For that reason, Adair said it's important for the department to have a handle on what newcomers need and ensure they know about available services, rather than leaving that work entirely to service organizations and settlement support groups.

The auditor general also raised concerns about fraud protection.

Although Adair noted the creation of a compliance division in the office to monitor fraud risks, she noted that there remain outstanding recommendations from 2020 about ways to reduce fraud risk.

Steve Lawrence/CBC
Steve Lawrence/CBC

Adair's report notes 90 fraud investigations in a 10-month period. Her office examined eight of those files and found the work "very thorough," with appropriate action based on the findings.

Jill Balser, the minister responsible for immigration in Nova Scotia, told reporters that her office accepts all of Adair's recommendations.

Balser's office contracted an external assessment of service requirements and what's available for newcomers. The final work on that assessment is expected soon.

The minister said staff in her office are nimble and able to move quickly to changing labour market needs.

"We have to work with sectors and that's what we do very closely with all the different labour sectors to make sure that we're meeting their needs," she told reporters.