June 2008 Issue

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President’s Notebook

How APEGGA Links Business To Issues, Tactics and Strategies


APEGGA President

Strategy: a long-term plan of action designed to achieve particular goals. The word derives from the Greek word stratêgos, which comes from two words: stratos (army) and ago (leading).

Strategic: pertaining to, or application of, strategy.

Tactics: immediate actions with resources at hand.

I begin with these definitions for a reason. From May 8 to 10, your Council and senior managers met in Banff in our annual Strategic Planning Retreat. This is the opportunity we take, each spring, to review where APEGGA is going and what we want to accomplish over the next 10 years.

The APEGGA strategic management procedure, established a few years ago, involves several components: a 10-year vision; sets of three-year and one-year goals and objectives; and a business plan for the next year. These enable us to attain our long-term vision and set priorities for each annual budget.

Issues, threats and opportunities confronting the Association now, and that will confront it in the future, made up a long list of 14 items from previous strategic plans, from suggestions by members of the 2007 Strategic Planning Committee and from other members. The issues were placed in order of importance by the committee.

For each issue, a 10-year vision of where we want to be was identified, along with appropriate three- and one-year goals and objectives to get us there. In that way, a direct line-of-sight was established from the 10-year vision through to the corresponding tactical objectives and annual budget.

Based on recommendations from the Strategic Planning Committee and deliberations at the retreat, the most important four issues were identified as
1. Threats to self-governance posed by governments intent on imposing unfettered inter-jurisdictional mobility of workers without consideration of how such mobility would affect the overriding responsibility of engineers and geoscientists to protect the public welfare.

2. Threat to our credibility and claims to regulate geoscience practice posed by an unacceptably low compliance rate of geoscientists in Alberta. Depending on how the rate is calculated, compliance is probably somewhere between 55 and 70 per cent, compared with 85 to 90 per cent for engineers in the province.

3. Proliferation of concerns about matters of public policy, such as climate change, availability and use of fresh water, nuclear power generation, potentially deteriorating infrastructure, resource royalties and the like. These periodically lead to requests for APEGGA to take a leadership role.

4. Concerns about potentially looming shortages of professionals and skilled labourers. APEGGA issued more than 4,200 new licences to practice engineering and geoscience in 2007. It is imperative that an adequate workforce be maintained without lowering the high level of public protection that is APEGGA’s first priority.

In addition, concerns were expressed about the decreasing involvement of members in Association affairs over the past few years, culminating in fewer than 10 per cent of eligible members voting in this year’s election. Part of the low voter turnout was undoubtedly caused by introducing a computer-based voting system, but the trend has been downward for some time.

As indicated in my column and an article in last month’s PEGG, a task force has already been established to look into the causes of the decline and come up with possible remedies.

Results and recommendations from the Banff planning session will be discussed and refined over the next few months by the 2008 Strategic Planning Committee under the chairmanship of President-Elect Jim Beckett, P.Eng. Results will be published in the strategic plan for 2009 to 2018.

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Coun. Kevin Cumming, P.Eng., elected this year to Council, moves along to another sheet of strategic writings — with some help from an unseen APEGGA hand. Council and senior managers met for a strategic retreat in mid-May.


Canadian and International Transferability
In today’s global economy, professional projects are less and less constrained by political boundaries. Nowhere is this more apparent than in geoscience, where the rocks do not recognize political realities. However, engineering practice is also increasingly multi-jurisdictional. Just as a geophysicist or geologist may, in a single day, work on projects in two or more provinces (or states), so too an engineer may be required to sign off on the design of a pipeline, for example, that crosses several provinces (or states).

As has been pointed out many times by John McLeod, P.Eng., now your Past-President, mobility and transferability of licensure do not necessarily mean physically relocating to another province, territory or state. They simply make it easy to do professional work in another jurisdiction from wherever the professional is located.

Recognizing this fact of life, APEGGA has been at the forefront of a drive to have our P.Eng., P.Geol. and P.Geoph. designations recognized outside the province, not only in Canada but also in the U.S. and farther abroad.

In Canada, inter-provincial and inter-territorial transferability of professional credentials is governed by two Inter-Association Mobility Agreements, known as IAMAs, one for engineers and a separate one for geoscientists. Because engineers and geoscientists are licensed by joint engineering and geoscience associations in Canada (Alberta is home to more than half the licensed geoscientists in Canada), it makes good sense for the two agreements to be as similar as possible.

Both the engineering IAMA, signed in 1999, and the geoscience IAMA, signed in 2001, had clauses that recognized the right and obligation of the receiving regulatory associations to examine the qualifications of transferees if there was any doubt about their qualifications. These so-called “notwithstanding” clauses have been interpreted by officials in both the federal and provincial governments as being unacceptable under the Agreement on Internal Trade, which promoted free trade within Canada.

A new engineering IAMA being considered replaces the notwithstanding clause with words affirming that associations have the responsibility under their legislation to do due diligence in ensuring that transferees are appropriately qualified.

Similarly, a new IAMA for geoscientists has been drafted by the Canadian Council of Professional Geoscientists to replace the original 2001 agreement. With the assistance and approval of federal and provincial officials, the new geoscience IAMA removes the notwithstanding clause and several constituent association members of CCPG have signified their approval.

On the other hand, APEGGA Council voted unanimously in December 2007 to not sign the new agreement unless wording was restored to confirm that our Board of Examiners has the explicit authority under our enabling legislation to determine if a transferee meets APEGGA’s requirements for licensure.

Let’s put this into perspective. In 2007, 848 individuals applied for licensure in Alberta under the two mobility agreements. In only six cases was the notwithstanding clause invoked, and in five of these the applicants were accepted when they completed their applications.

To add to the complexity, the Alberta and British Columbia governments last year signed the Trade, Industry and Labour Mobility Agreement. This agreement, known as TILMA, mandates unfettered mobility between the provinces. APEGGA and APEGBC are attempting to have words added to TILMA to emphasize that protection of the public and unrestricted mobility are not incompatible.

Over the past 10 years, working through various channels — including the National Council of Examiners in Engineering and Surveying, and the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region — APEGGA has made significant progress toward having an Alberta P.Eng. accepted as equivalent to the P.E. licence in the United States. Following on the success of the engineering initiatives, APEGGA has initiated negotiations with the National Association of State Boards of Geology that could see a formula developed to equate our geoscience designations to the P.G. used in more than half the states in the U.S. More on this topic in a future column.

In the meantime and any other time, I would appreciate receiving your comments or suggestions. Please get in touch with me at president@apegga.org.