January 2008 Issue


Council Approves Dues Increase
For 2008 APEGGA Budget


The PEGG compiled the following items from the Dec. 6 APEGGA Council meeting in Edmonton. The next meeting is Feb. 21, 2008, in Calgary.

APEGGA’s annual fee for individual membership will increase six per cent to help cover rising costs, address business plan priorities and keep the Association’s unrestricted reserve in a healthy position, Council decided. The increase amounts to six per cent or $15, making the new fee $265.

Coun. Kim Sturgess, P.Eng., chair of the Finance Committee, said increases matching inflation are a fact of business life for a growing and improving organization in a robust economy. Increases must, however, be based on sound, principled planning, she said.

A yearly “should-we-or-shouldn’t-we” mentality leads to larger, make-up increases in years when the economy doesn’t justify them, Ms. Sturgess explained.

Council also passed its 2008 budget, which estimates expenses at about $14.5 million, up about 15 per cent from projected year-end expenses of nearly $12.7 million in 2007.

Council heard that 4.5 per cent of the increase comes from inflation on products and services, seven per cent from inflation on salaries, and 3.5 per cent from strategic and other priorities.

The biggest revenue source is dues, estimated at more than $10 million in 2008 and up from an estimated $8.96 million in 2007. Salaries, benefits and pensions make up the biggest expense at $5.6 million, up from $4.8 million in 2007.

Council heard that investment income suffered with the markets in 2007, with a net return of under three per cent. APEGGA’s target is a 6.5 per cent net return. The committee said, however, that a recently revised investment strategy is still sound.

Operating income is better than expected, largely because some staff positions weren’t filled for the entire year. The forecast is that net income will be $550,000 at year-end.
Although some councillors wanted to see costs of business plan initiatives earlier in the process, the budget vote was unanimous.

“We shouldn’t hide our heads and move to zero increases now,” said Coun. Marc Sabourin, P.Eng. “That’s not the business world we live in. Do we want APEGGA to lead Canada or do we want to sit back and follow, and let someone else do it? I like the leadership position much more.”

Geo Designation & M.I.T. Voting Go to Ballot

Should APEGGA members-in-training have the same voting and electoral rights of full members? And should the designations Professional Geologist and Professional Geophysicist be amalgamated into the more inclusive designation Professional Geoscientist, which other self-regulating groups in Canada already use?

Council has answered yes to both questions and wants to find out where members stand. An e-PEGG Extra sent in December sought member feedback, and backgrounders on both ideas appear on the page opposite this one.

Council plans to officially ask members about the ideas in ballots tied to the 2008 Council election. The ultimate decisions lie with the Alberta Legislature, because the changes would require amendments to the Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions Act.

More information also appears in earlier Council Briefs, which readers can find online. Click through The PEGG icon on the homepage, and find the October and July 2007 PEGGs Online. A President’s Notebook in the October 2007 PEGG Online also addresses the subject.

Electronic Election Debuts in 2008

APEGGA elections go electronic in 2008, which will save mailing and paper costs, reduce the likelihood of spoiled ballots, and — hopefully — increase participation. All eligible members will receive a unique PIN in the mail and be given the option of ordering full ballot packages to use the old mail-in system.

The default, however, will be to electronic. If members don’t request a hardcopy package when their PIN arrives, voting online is their only option.

EGGP Act amendments enacted last April allow electronic voting, which staff members estimate will reduce election costs by about $35,000 in 2008. That’s about equal to the one-time cost of setting up the system.

Council endorsed the system after a demonstration. It allows voters to click through to information on nominees and background material, and it prevents members from voting more than once or spoiling ballots by casting more votes than permitted.

Environmental Roles Gain Profile

Environmental matters played large on the Council agenda. The Environment Committee updated Council on professional sign-off for environmental site assessment, reclamation and remediation, and also reported on results of a member climate change survey.

And Council learned that Darrel Danyluk, P.Eng., a past APEGGA president, is leading a four-year Canadian term as chair of an international environment and engineering committee. See related story, page 32.

The APEGGA Environment Committee is prepared for the Jan. 1 effective date of a new provincial requirement for professional sign-off. This initial requirement is for remediation certificates for petroleum storage tanks, but professional sign-off requirements in other areas are expected later in the year.

APEGGA and other professional regulatory organizations are on top of the situation.

They’ve approved the Joint Practice Standard and Professional Sign-Off for Environmental Site Assessment, Reclamation and Re-mediation, which has been published in hardcopy and is now available online at www.apegga.org.

Alberta Environment, APEGGA and the other organizations are working on a joint news release to inform the public of the sign-off system.

In another initiative, the Environment Committee has collected information suggesting just under half of the APEGGA membership believe climate change is due to both human and natural factors. A survey the committee conducted found 27 per cent of respondents think climate change is due to natural causes only, 25 per cent believe it is due to human factors only, and 45 per cent believe it is due to both. APEGGA professionals are also split on whether climate change poses significant risk to public safety and welfare.

APEGGA conducted the survey in late September and October using the e-PEGG and the hardcopy PEGG, and it garnered 1,106 responses. Dubbed the Member Consultation on Climate Change, it sought facts, opinions and demographic detail under 21 main headings.

The committee continues to review and analyze the data. Watch for a full story on the survey’s results in an upcoming edition of The PEGG.

Low Geo Licensure Supported by Data

APEGGA licensure of geoscientists remains unacceptably low, the APEGGA Geoscience Committee told Council in the wake of a survey of companies. The survey, conducted on APEGGA’s behalf by E.M. Ashmore & Associates, suggests 53 per cent of geophysicists and 65 per cent of geologists in Alberta are licensed.

That’s close to the commonly held assumption within the Association that the geoscientist licensure rate is around 60 per cent.

The surveyor went to 170 companies, with 92 of them responding. Respondents represent 44 per cent of Alberta’s geoscientists.

The Geoscience Committee identified five possible reasons for the trend, which are

  • aging baby boomer demographics

  • declining Western Canadian Basin production

  • the residual effect of layoffs in the 1980s and ’90s

  • licensure hurdles for geoscientists arriving in Alberta from other

  • variance of supervision standards and licensure culture from company to company.

Like engineers, all geologists and geophysicists practicing in Alberta require an APEGGA licence. The licence holds them to the ethical, professional, academic and experience standards APEGGA administers to protect the public.
However, it is possible for someone to get around licensure if a supervisor carries the designation and takes responsibility for work. Some companies do strongly encourage licensure, going as far as withholding advancement for non-licensed geoscientists.

The APEGGA Compliance Department and the APEGGA Geoscience Affairs Department will review the data. Also, The PEGG will publish full results in an upcoming edition.

Education Foundation Plans to Place Funds With University Endowments

Council endorsed the start of a new era for the APEGGA Education Foundation, which will allow the foundation to maximize the value of unrestricted funds donated for scholarships and awards. A motion of Council supports the foundation’s decision to move its unrestricted funds to the University of Alberta and University of Calgary endowment funds.

Agreements with the universities will spell out how the foundation wants the money used. Foundation money will be leveraged through matching grants from the government’s Access to the Future Fund, which is only open to post-secondary institutions. The universities themselves will match the foundation’s contributions dollar-for-dollar as well, within five years.

Funds will be held in professionally managed trusts that have been growing at better than 10 per cent per year, which is far larger than the small growth the foundation can expect on its own.

The foundation has about $1 million in capital reserve, but has told Council it needs more like $2 million if it is ever to get by without Council support. Council has, however, been weaning the foundation of that support, saying the foundation needs to find a way to survive on its own.

The APEGGA Education Foundation is a separate, arms-length organization from the Association. Council further entrenched that arms-length status by allowing the foundation board to recommend board members.

In the past, only Council could recommend members, for concurrence by the board. Now the board can recommend as well, for concurrence from Council.

Watch upcoming PEGGs for full details on the foundation’s new direction.