Lovell blames government for change to Canada visa policy

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Political leader of the United Progressive Party, Senator Harold Lovell,  said the government should not be blaming the Opposition for Canada now requiring Antigua & Barbuda’s citizens to acquire a visa to travel to the North American country.
In the post-Cabinet remarks provided by Chief of Staff, Lionel Hurst it was stated that the government felt that inaccurate and negative findings filed in the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) of the USA, undoubtedly influenced the decision of the Canadians.
Hurst further stated that CBS’ 60 Minutes report on Citizenship by Investment Programmes (CIPs) in the Caribbean, the hostile reporting of one media group in Antigua and the leader of the opposition political party, and other factors were to blame for the Canadian policy change.
But, Lovell said the
mismanagement of the
CIP led Canada to now require Antiguans and Barbudans to enter Canada with a visa.
“We had an advertisement at our airport and I think it said, ‘arrive as a visitor, leave as a citizen’. I am simply saying that when you are relying on the goodwill of other countries they must be satisfied that your travel document; our passport, has a high level of integrity,” Lovell said.
Visa free travel to Canada by Antiguans and Barbudans was one of the selling points of the CIP.
Speaking with stakeholders of other regional CIPs, Lovell said it is anticipated there will be a fall off in interest and application since the June 26 announcement from Canada.
“I am not saying lock it down, I am saying to suspend it [CIP] and do a complete audit. If you are driving a car and you hear a knocking under the bonnet …you need to pull the car off the road and check under the bonnet, fix the problem and then you get back on the road,” he said.
The political leader said when the UPP introduced the programme in 2013, it hired a Canadian deputy minister to monitor the programme, but after the government was elected in 2014, the official left.
It has been officially reported that Antigua and Barbuda earned over $65 million from the CIP for the period June to December 2016.
In the end, Hurst conceded, “It was also accepted that the Canadians must have been planning to eliminate the visa-free access for some time, and that no single event or single action by the government caused the shift.”

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