Foreign Investors Buy Local Business–and a Ticket to Canada

By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Sept.5, 2014

Looking to sell your established business in Squamish? There are more customers out there than you may know. Foreign investors are looking to buy businesses, a move that expedite their citizenship application under a provincial nominee program.

In the last few months, Mitchell Chang has received several phone calls from Vancouver realtors and almost all have the pattern, greeting followed by a question.

“Do you want to sell your business?” PNP

For Chang, the owner of Mountain Burger House on Cleveland Ave, the timing is impeccable. He had been meaning to sell his business, but the price was never tempting enough for him to seriously consider the offer.

But this time is different. The realtors calling him were front men for immigrant hopefuls in China and other countries, hoping to buy a business under the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).

The PNP program is the business-class version of immigration to Canada. As point-based and family immigration queues grow longer, those willing to invest money in Canada can apply to purchase or expand a business. In return, they are able to fast track their Canadian residency.

The PNP program has gained more currency ever since the federal government scrapped the immigrant investor program. To stimulate economic development outside bigger centres, the PNP program also encourages prospective immigrants to apply outside Vancouver and Abbotsford areas.

The prospective immigrant must invest at least $200,000 in a business and commit to creating at least one job for a Canadian citizen.

“It’s an open for business card Squamish has been waiting to play for a long time.” Marnie Lett.

For local business owners like Chang, the program offers a chance to retire or create another business in the community. He’s now considering an offer from a Chinese family to buy his Cleveland Ave. restaurant.

“It’s an open for business card Squamish has been waiting to play for a long time,” says Marnie Lett, the owner of Fetish Shoes.

Marnie recently sold her shoe store to a family from China, but has been helping them in the transition. The new owner has a background in shoe retail in China and plans to expand this operation, she added.

“It’s been thrilling to watch this family come to Squamish,” she says.

For Qing Tian, the new owners, small town life in Squamish stands in stark contrast to the frenzied life he was used to living in Guangzhou.

Before migrating to Canada under the PNP program, Tian lived in Guangzhou, the capital and the largest city of Guangdong province. After a stint as a video editor in public broadcasting, he started working with Top Score Fashion, a footwear company.

Tian said he wanted to migrate to Canada for its clean environment, stable economy, and better future for May Huang and Sunshine, his wife and son.

“Plus, the people in Canada are really nice,” Tian said.

Tian may have left the pollution and a frenetic life behind, but not the willingness to work hard and prosper in a new country.

 He is already planning to renovate and expand the shop, while exploring other connections for shoes in Europe and China.

“I want to combine online sales with retail and make this a better experience for the customers,” he says.

The program is win-win for both the business owner and the prospective immigrant, says local realtor Shaun Greenway.

There is immense interest in the program: Greenway says he too 46 calls one day from lawyers and realtors looking to buy a business in Squamish. Wealthy investors buying into Squamish will create many spinoffs for the community, he says.

“This will create more economic and cultural diversity in our town,” he says.

In 2013, the economic development office in Squamish recorded 35 PNP enquiries.



  1. Chris tamburri says:

    That’s interesting ……Guanghzou is the city that will be recieving the LNG
    from Woodfibre.
    Welcome to Squamish new Canadians !!

  2. Dave Colwell says:

    Take a look at what this kind of “foreign investment” is doing to individual housing property taxes….not all roses! Looks good to begin with but see what happens afterwards, spin offs etc. Ask someone who has an older small house in the point Grey/Kits area.

  3. Brian Gusatson says:

    what is foreign investment i would class “big box stores” of American origin directly impacting small business directly whom have to compete with cheap knockoffs, and generally suppressed wages.
    I support small business completely the life blood of any community, big box stores very impermissible not the best shopping experience.
    The comment about restate true here in sqaumish that market has
    has drastically escalated since 1975 when we moved here, spill over from the lower mainland, no doubt, rents for commercial and domestic pricing has gone way beyond what is normal difficult for those that have to rent making it difficult for seniors and others to secure a acceptable place to live.
    Sqaumish has lost considerable amount of its commercial tax base over the years, substituting with i guess a “branding” of the sea sky experience all very nice but does this substitute what we had as a tax base, not likely.
    Yes LNG is foreign investment the article showing small investors purchasing small businesses i have no problem with that will support these businesses as best as i can.
    I guess the smart thing to do with those that have real- estate sell high buy low which means moving further inland away from the lower mainland.

  4. John Mountain says:

    Prior to putting our business on the market we were constantly getting PNP people coming into our store and agents phoning asking if we would sell. When we did decide to sell, we went through a local agent and it was a PNP person who signed up. It’s been a horrible experience, we went above and beyond to help this person to learn about our business and we were available for 7 months to help with the process. The business sold at the end of January, it is now the end of September and we are still waiting to get paid for our stock. It is costing us a fortune in legal fees, we are out of pocket, the store is selling and receiving profit from stock which belongs to us. This person is working illegally in Canada and does not have the PNP approval. So a word of warning to anyone who is thinking of selling to a PNP person, BE WARNED, check your contract and paperwork very carefully, you will wait a long time, it may not happen (3 contracts in our town fell over after 2 years) and like us you may not get paid. Is this the sort of people the PNP is trying to attract to Canada? People that don’t respect the Country enough to learn the language, to respect contracts, it would seem that they just want in at whatever cost. I wish we’d known this prior to signing up, we would never have done it.