Registers Corporations

For APEGGA, people count, but so do corporations.

PEGG readers may recall an article in the September issue (page 5) on the process by which individual members are registered and obtain standing within the Association. But there’s another side to the APEGGA registration, that of corporate registration — more commonly referred to as a Permit to Practice.

Individual registration dates back to the Association’s origins in 1920. Corporate registration emerged more recently, starting in 1968 with the registration of consultancies offering services directly to the public, and expanding in the early 1981 to include corporations engaged in the practice of engineering, geology and geophysics, even if they don’t sell their services directly to the public.

Why register corporations? APEGGA Director of Registration and Compliance Dave Todd , P.Eng., notes that "in the case of, say, an engineering firm, you don’t have to be an engineer to be the chief operating officer or president."

While an engineering (or geological or geophysical) corporation can be owned and registered under Alberta’s provincial registry just like any other firm, APEGGA does have a legislated responsibility to ensure that those who practice engineering, geology and/or geophysics within such corporation do so keeping public safety in mind.

Therefore, explains Mr. Todd, "there is a requirement for a corporation with a Permit to Practice to have one or more responsible members who are registered with APEGGA, who take responsibility for the practice of engineering, geology or geophysics within the firm."

The responsible member must either be a permanent employee or member of the company. In applying for a Permit to Practice, a corporation’s chief operating officer or designate agrees that he or she will maintain an organization in which the practice of the professions of engineering, geology or geophysics are conducted in accordance with the Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions Act, and part 10 of the regulations covering Permits.

The applicant also includes a declaration by the designated responsible registered member(s). There is a further responsibly to inform APEGGA when a responsible member ceases to be a full-time employee or shareholder.

Once received by APEGGA, an application for a Permit to Practice is screened by staff to determine that the company is a viable and existing corporation and that the responsible member(s) is in good standing with APEGGA. Following payment of $195 (the same for all companies), a Permit to Practice is issued in the company’s name.

Several other Canadian jurisdictions — Ontario, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and the Northwest Territories — have implemented variants of corporate registration. At this point, APEGGA is unique in also requiring so-called operating companies which do not offer engineering, geological or geophysical services directly to the public to obtain a Permit. Council’s rationale, explains Mr. Todd, is that public safety can be impacted just as much whether a professional service is provided "in-house" or sold by a consultant. "It’s a quality control mechanism to influence the practice of the professions within corporations."

Just as individual professional members are subject to APEGGA’s investigative and disciplinary procedures, as legal entities corporations can be reviewed and, where appropriate, reprimanded if they fail to meet the provisions of the EGGP Act.

Corporate practice is a subject of considerable discussion and examination (including by a still existing Council Subcommittee on the Regulation of Corporate Practice, chaired by Coun. Mark Lasby, P.Eng.). Suggestions have been proposed for differentiated treatment of corporations, depending on their manner of doing business and whether they are "single-practitioner" corporations. These changes have yet to received Council’s endorsement and the necessary approval of the Alberta government or APEGGA Council.

Therefore, Mr. Todd stresses, "It’s still business as usual. Any partnership, corporation or other entity engaging in the practice of the professions and/or using the reserved titles under the Act, requires a Permit."