Time and Patience Needed To Change
Our Legislation

 

By Dennis Lindberg

Rome, as the saying goes, wasn't built in a day.

The same holds true when it comes to changing our governing legislation, the Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions Act and its related Regulations and Bylaws. Implementation of changes to either our Act, Regulations or Bylaws represents the culmination of a process that not uncommonly stretches over several years.

So it is that, as this issue of The PEGG goes to press, the Alberta Legislature is considering Bill 18, the Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions Amendment Act, containing legislative amendments dealing with items which essentially were approved by votes at APEGGA's 1996 and 1997 Annual General Meetings.

The changes included in Bill 18, when proclaimed, will specify:

u use of a Permit number rather than a corporate stamp on work signed off by a Permit holder. This recognizes the widespread and growing use of computer technology in such activities;

u provisions to eliminate any ambiguity between the Appeal Board's activities and the options available to the Investigative Committee;

u Council will delegate to the Practice Review Board the random selection of members or firms to be considered for practice reviews. This change will facilitate the proactive process of practice review already approved by Council;

u members of APEGGA will be entitled to accept responsibility for and approve documents prepared by others who are not under their direct supervision.

Before these or other legislative changes can be brought before an AGM, they would normally be considered or initiated by an APEGGA committee or task force and then forwarded to Council for deliberation and decision. Once Council approves a legislative or regulatory change, it then is passed on to the Act, Regulations and Bylaws Committee and APEGGA legal counsel for review and possible adjustment of wording prior to consideration at the AGM. Once approved by the AGM, the proposals are forwarded to the Public Works, Supply and Services Department of the Alberta Government, which then may make changes (in consultation with APEGGA and the legislative counsel) and, if appropriate, move it forward for consideration by Cabinet and/or the Legislature.

Changes to our Bylaws, while not requiring the approval of the Cabinet or the Legislature, must nevertheless be given the same close scrutiny and deliberation by staff, committees and Council, then appropriately publicized to the membership and approved by a vote of members at an AGM.

As you can see, legislative changes involve a considerable process of project management by Council, APEGGA committees and staff. There also is a need to work closely with the minister and officials of the department responsible for the EGGP Act and the legislative counsel. All this ensures that there is ample opportunity for all interested parties to have input into the process and it guarantees that the rights of members and the public are protected.

Election Biographies

The recent voting carried out to elect new members of APEGGA Council has raised questions by some members concerning the lack of policy platform information in the biographical information provided to members. This matter has been raised in the past and policy was first established by Council in the 1987 guidelines for Candidates Seeking Election to Council which contained the following provision:

Council adopts the policy that while not encouraging platform statements, biographical material submitted by candidates is generally published unedited.

This policy led to a proliferation of biographies, some of which contained political and controversial statements thus resulting in a sometimes lengthy and inequitable array of documents. As a result, the matter was revisited by Council in 1993, at which time, the following policy was adopted:

Biographical material submitted by candidates for publication will be confined to information related to educational background, work history, personal and technical affiliations, and involvement in APEGGA activities, if applicable.

It is clear that Council, in 1987, did not encourage or endorse platform statements or political comments but did not establish a clear policy to preclude them. In 1993, on the other hand, Council moved to ensure that all biographies contained appropriate biographical material only.

This action was taken in consideration of APEGGA's primary responsibility, which is to protect the safety and interests of the public by administration of the EGGP Act, through the maintenance of appropriate standards of entry into the profession and of professional practice, and through appropriate investigative, discipline and enforcement processes. Therefore, it is considered that Council is a decision and policy-making body charged with the responsibility to see that this is carried out. Members of Council are elected to serve in the interests of the public good and on behalf of the entire professions. They should not, therefore, represent a particular interest or constituency and are elected by the membership at large to serve the public and the membership as a whole. Meetings of the Council, therefore, are not forums for advocacy.

Conclusion

Elsewhere in The PEGG you will read comments I have included in APEGGA's Annual Report. However, let me, in this my last Presidents Notebook, again express my appreciation for the opportunity to serve as your President. Through the past year, I have appreciated the trust and confidence that you have placed in me and the support and encouragement that I have received from so many sources professional members, members of Council, volunteers who serve so willingly on the various branch executives and committees, and APEGGA staff. I particularly want to thank the members of the Executive Committee and others who have filled in for me in recent weeks on occasions when I was unable to attend myself. It is encouraging to know that our professional Association has the depth and strength to deal with such situations as this when they arise and that the important role that APEGGA must play is fulfilled.

It remains only for me to pass on my very best wishes to my successor, Dan Motyka, P.Eng., and the new Council to be announced at the AGM on April 17th. The coming year will be a challenging one as we see ever more changes to the face of our professions and the mandate that APEGGA will be asked to fulfil. I am confident that I leave the task in very good hands.