Following Through on the Business Plan

By Dennis Lindberg, P.Eng.

It is soon 12 months since Council approved a Business Plan for the Association. Many of the programs, actions and activities identified by the plan continue what already was being done well, while others modify or extend these initiatives. However, new programs and activities had to be introduced in several areas to address the six strategic policy statements that Council adopted at an earlier planning session to guide APEGGA’s future direction.

By way of a reminder, the six policy statements were:

APEGGA will hold paramount the protection of the public.

APEGGA will support the work of the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers and other national organizations involved in promoting the national and international interests of APEGGA (including strong support for the newly established Canadian Council of Professional Geoscientists which, despite APEGGA’s strong efforts, didn’t exist when the strategic policy statements were developed).

The professions of engineering, geology, and geophysics will be self-governing with rights to titles and exclusive scopes of practice.

APEGGA will enhance the value and relevance of professional membership for engineers, geologists and geophysicists.

APEGGA will provide leadership and encouragement in advancing science and technology.

APEGGA will foster positive relationships with the Alberta Government based on mutual respect and trust.

The development and introduction of new activities, programs and initiatives takes time and requires care to ensure that they meet objectives and don’t conflict with existing regulatory programs. Our Executive Director, Neil Windsor, P.Eng., and staff are to be commended for their dedicated efforts and the progress that has been made to date with the implementation of APEGGA’s Business Plan. Here are a few of the things the Association now is doing relative to some of the above policy statements.

Protection of the Public

This has been and must continue to be APEGGA’s prime focus. We have been delegated the privileges, responsibilities and powers of self-governance by the government, on behalf of the public, through professional legislation. This legislation delegates to us a range of regulatory responsibilities together with rights to titles and exclusive scopes of practice. Delegated responsibilities include such matters as registration, enforcement, practice review, discipline, as well as establishing continuing education requirements, and an enforceable Code of Ethics. The privileges, responsibilities and powers of self-governance must never be taken for granted. A 1990 government document, "Principles and Policies Governing Professional Legislation in Alberta", makes it very clear that these are delegated to a professional association only when it serves the public interest. The professional association will be held accountable to the public it serves and to the government for the performance of its statutory functions. With the introduction of our mandatory continuing professional development program, APEGGA now is in total compliance with the 1990 government paper.

We always have had a fair but thorough registration process and an enforceable Code of Ethics. We recently have initiated a program of random pro-active practice reviews. New practice standards documents continue to be developed for the guidance of our membership as the need is identified. Effective July 1 1996, our requested changes to our discipline process were approved. These changes add public members to the Discipline Committee and, with a few justified exceptions, open the disciplinary hearings to the public.

Many may not realize the time and effort made by Council, staff and volunteers to ensure that those graduating into our professions are made aware of the responsibilities associated with having been delegated the privilege of being a self-governing profession. Each year, volunteers and/or staff, deliver lectures explaining APEGGA’s Code of Ethics and regulatory responsibilities to fourth-year students at the universities of Calgary and Alberta.

Starting this year, one-day "Practice of the Professions" seminars have been held in Calgary and Edmonton for recent out-of-province graduates who had not yet been made aware of what it means to be a professional. Ten volunteers, supported by staff, made presentations on registration, ethics, discipline, enforcement, professional development, practice standards and member services.

For many years, APEGGA has organized half-day workshops for near-graduates who are attending earth ring and iron ring ceremonies in Calgary and Edmonton. Attendees are teamed with practicing member volunteers and are presented with a number of case studies illustrating situations of potential unskilled practice or unprofessional conduct.

Clearly, APEGGA Council, staff and volunteers take very seriously the responsibilities associated with the privilege of self-governance. Protection of public safety and interests dictates the position that Council has taken with regard to the proposed licensing of technologists to practice in defined areas of engineering.

Support for CCPE, CCPG & Other National Bodies

Last month’s Notebook outlined the strong support that APEGGA provides to the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers (CCPE) through the contributions of very senior and experienced volunteers, Noel Cleland, P.Eng., on the Executive Committee and Fred Otto, P.Eng., PhD, on the Board of Directors. It also referred to the contributions by our Executive Director, Neil Windsor, as a member of the Permanent Staff Officers Committee, and of other APEGGA managers serving on various working committee.

For many years, the Council of APEGGA felt great concern that the CCPE mandate did not include geologists and geophysicists, since few other provincial and territorial associations registered geoscientists. That is changing but we still are far from having established a "Canadian Council of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists". Thanks to the dedication and efforts of Gordon Williams, P.Geol., PhD, (former APEGGA Council Member), Philippe Erdmer, P.Geol., PhD, and many others, we have a newly constituted Canadian Council of Professional Geoscientists. Dr. Erdmer, an APEGGA member, was appointed as the first chair of CCPG. This body has the full support of APEGGA. Furthermore, CCPE has agreed to transfer funding equal the annual assessment collected each year from its constituent associations for their geoscientists.

The development and maintenance of strong national professional bodies is relevant and should be of significant interest to all engineers, geologists and geophysicists. These bodies help to ensure a measure of uniformity and ease of interprovincial mobility. They also are the means through which we are represented internationally.

Fostering Positive Relationships

APEGGA is accountable to government through the Department of Public Works. We are very fortunate to have the Honourable Stan Woloshyn as the current Minister of Public Works, Supply and Services. He has shown a strong interest in, and solid understanding of our professions as demonstrated by his availability to meet with APEGGA’s Executive Committee and Council on a number of occasions over the past year.

Recently, together with our Executive Director, I have enjoyed the privilege of independent meetings at the Legislative Buildings with several of our cabinet ministers and their deputies. These were courtesy calls to ensure an understanding of the very significant contribution that our professions have made and will continue to make to the Alberta Advantage. The outcomes of the one-day mini-growth summit meetings that APEGGA convened in Edmonton and in Calgary in July were discussed, as were other issues and initiatives that APEGGA is undertaking. Some were interested in our Specified Scope of Practice concept. Others were not aware of the exam route, which has been in place for many years, by which individuals who do not hold an engineering degree from an accredited university program may be granted full professional status by our Board of Examiners.

At another level of government, APEGGA has struck a joint task force with the Consulting Engineers of Alberta (CEA) to enhance communication with the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) and the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC). Ours is a professional objective focused on protection of the public. CEA’s objective naturally has a business component in addition to that of protection of the public.

APEGGA recently set up a display booth at the AUMA annual meeting (attended by Neil Windsor, myself and two APEGGA staff members) at which were gathered well over 1,000 MLAs, mayors, councillors and administrators representing constituencies and municipalities across Alberta. Attendees showed significant interest in learning about our Association. Some had questions about how to hire a consultant, others were interested in how they might file a complaint should the need arise.

Over the past year, considerable effort has been directed towards fostering positive relations with relevant industry associations, technical associations, and other professions

Examples of such groups are: the Environmental Services Association of Alberta, the Canadian Advanced Technology Association, the Alliance of Manufacturers and Exporters Canada and the Alberta Chamber of Resources. APEGGA delegates have attended functions of Economic Development Edmonton and the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists. We have been present at the Emerald Awards, the annual meetings of ASET, CEA and Alberta Land Surveyors. We also were present at a special meeting of the Canadian Prairies Group of Chartered Engineers, the official launch of Research Technology Management Inc. at the U of A, and the opening of Science in the Sands at the Space and Science Centre.

APEGGA’s current relationship with the CEA is very good - in part, due to the joint executive meetings which have been held, and importantly as a result of clear recognition and acknowledgement by both bodies of their respective roles and responsibilities.

The foregoing provides an indication of the efforts and progress being made to address three of the six policy statements. Considerable progress has also been made on the remaining three. Throughout the exercise of implementing the Business Plan, it has been essential that APEGGA never lose sight of its prime regulatory responsibilities.