readers’ forum


Let's hear from you...

The PEGG welcomes letters as an avenue for members to express opinions and concerns on issues or topics of interest to the professions. Share your experiences with other members.

  • Just mail: (1500 Scotia One, 10060 Jasper Avenue NW, Edmonton, AB T5J 4A2,) e-mail: (glee@apegga.org), or fax 780-425-1722 your letters to the editor, signed with your name
    and address.

  • We can't publish all letters received and can't run letters concerning specific registration or discipline matters before any APEGGA regulatory body.

  • Keep your letters to 300 words or less.

  • Remember, The PEGG reserves the right to edit for length, legality, coherence and taste.

  • Letters represent the opinions and not necessarily the expertise of their writers.

  • Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of APEGGA.

'Engineered' Information Systems Neglected By Industry

Re: What Real Software Engineers Know, Joseph M. Green, P.Eng., The PEGG, October 2004.

Mr. Green brings attention to an area of professional engineering that has, in my experience, been generally neglected by industry — the responsibility of software developers to public safety.

My career as an electrical engineer has given me experience with printed circuit board design, real-time software for computer devices, health system software, and the management of large multi-user information systems. As a professional engineer since 1990, I have been very conscious about my commitment to protecting public safety when building products and processes that manage information.

The computer scientists, engineers and managers responsible for building and running large information systems are faced with different safety challenges than bridge builders are. Not to diminish the importance or complexity of public safety and bridge building, but the focus is primarily on physical safety and protecting the environment.

When building information systems, the parameters for public safety are quite different — protecting personal and commercial privacy, ensuring accuracy, and building traceability of information sources, to name a few. Failure of any of these parameters can significantly impact the livelihood of one or more individuals.

Consider banking (managing our money) and health systems (managing our most private personal information). Errors or security breaches in either system can dramatically impact an individual, yet would have minimal impact on his or her physical safety.

Our society continues to adopt an information-based economy with increased dependency and interdependency on information. Thankfully we now have privacy legislation to define how this information can be used.

My challenge is that we, as professional engineers, have to recognize the public safety issues emerging with our information-based economy, address personal impact as part of our public safety responsibilities, and ensure that mentors and educators (both engineering and computer science) teach the importance of public safety in the design and development of information systems.

Patrick Binns, P.Eng.

Contribution Remembered
I was stunned to read that Stewart McIntosh, P.Eng., had passed away. Mr. McIntosh truly exemplified what is good about APEGGA and engineering as a profession.

I had the pleasure of many communications with Mr. McIntosh and would have struggled greatly without his advice and guidance. It will be impossible to replace his many contributions to APEGGA and our profession.

It is times like this that encourage us to reflect on the many good things that our profession and its members have done. Being an engineer is more than simply being a professional; it is a way of life that asks us to always consider the greater good, often at our own expense.

Mr. McIntosh espoused this philosophy. I hope the executive of APEGGA will continue to build upon the foundation that Mr. McIntosh helped establish. He will be missed as much by the membership as those with whom he worked closely. Personally, I will miss Stewart.

While it is too late to show this appreciation to Mr. McIntosh, it can be expressed to others in APEGGA. The tremendous assistance and support that APEGGA provides helps make our organization strong and cohesive.

I cannot recall a single communication with APEGGA that was not positive in my entire time as a member. My thanks go out to those who manage our organization on behalf of members. Often the people in the APEGGA offices toil without any formal thank you or appreciation.

We are members of a much respected profession and it is the tireless efforts of APEGGA that help maintain our reputation.

Derek Gilboe, P.Eng.


What Engineering Is
A recent paper from the Edmonton Section of the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering suggested that engineering should be defined in terms of what the Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions Act applies to, as follows:

“The revised definition should clarify that the act only applies to situations where a statute, code, regulation, standard, contract or other specification for an activity requires that the individual doing the work is a P.Eng., or P.Geol., P.Geoph., R.P.T. or some other professional designation defined in the act.”

Problems associated with this definition would be at least twofold. Firstly, responsibility for determining what is and what is not engineering would be substantially deferred to the government instead of APEGGA, and public safety would thereby be further at the mercy and oversight of government. Secondly, there are of course areas of practice in need of oversight from APEGGA, which are not currently covered by regulation, standard or specification.

Engineering should be defined by APEGGA, based on what engineering is — not based on what employers, the government or others view engineering to be. Engineering can in fact be specifically and distinctly defined in this way, instead of letting the definition become what market forces would determine it to be.

Cameron A. Sterling, P.Eng.

Report Scores On Deregulation
Re: Senior Engineers Give Poor Marks to Deregulation, Doing Business, The PEGG, January 2005.

I have read Where Is the Outrage by Life Member Keith Provost, P.Eng. The report describes, in a concise manner, the deregulation process, highlighting the errors and incorrect assumptions that were made (primarily by the Alberta Government) along the way. The facts and figures Mr. Provost provides clearly support his assertions.

A visit to the Independent Power Producers Society of Alberta website (the group that challenges Mr. Provost's conclusions and recommendations) is quite a contrast. The documents there contain collections of motherhood statements, much wishful thinking and little to no critical analysis.

The few facts that are highlighted are not placed in any type of useful context; in fact they are often presented in a way that implies the exact opposite of what actually happened.

Score 1 for Mr. Provost, 0 for IPPSA.
Phil Prins, P.Eng.
Sherwood Park

Will Common Sense Prevail In Global Warming Debate?

Re: The Upside of Prudence, By E. Litvin, P.Geol., and No Downside to Reducing GHGs,
R. Wilson, P.Geoph., Readers' Forum, The PEGG, February 2005.

The “uncontrolled experiment” Mr. Litvin writes about proves little if anything. As with all uncontrolled experiments, it is so unclean and there are so many interfering factors that to tell how much of the 1º F comes from the Earth's precession and how much from the exhaust pipes of our cars is impossible.

The opinions of “credible scientists” are also to little avail: in a politicized debate, for each such opinion there are five others stating the opposite.

Oil and gas are finite resources. It is as certain, and as low on my list of priorities, as the fact that the sun is going to stop shining sometime.

The most brilliant satirists of all times, Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain, ridiculed scientists so obsessed with the troubles due in hundreds and thousands of years that they were oblivious to the real problems of the world around them. They also mocked the tendency to draw global conclusions from scarce evidence.

What Mr. Wilson calls an “immense databank” on Earth's temperature increase is collected within a historically short period. It is as indicative of the long-term temperature cycle on Earth as the last two years is to long-term stock market performance.

This is an example of minority activists effectively ruling society. By mounting pressure in the media, they are often able to force governments to make decisions against their own best judgment and the will of the majority.

These activists don't bother arguing their point of view. They just repeat it enough that, in the minds of common people, it becomes objective reality.

I am afraid that the government will be forced to do something that is contrary to the best interest of the public, which I as a professional have vowed to protect.

The public interest is that this province needs no interruption in the flow of its oil and gas revenues and no mass unemployment, even temporary, because of cancelled expansion projects. The natural resources are the blessing of this land. No one will benefit if our Alberta Advantage is taken away. Reason and prudent economic sense must prevail.

I am by no means averse to research into alternative sources of energy and methods to reduce toxic and greenhouse gas emissions. This is a formidable and important task, and it should be pursued actively. (The revenues from oil and gas, by the way, have been instrumental in financing this research.)

However, a viable alternative should be devised before we wreck the world's economic order.

Konstantin Ashkinadze, P.Eng.