APEGGA’s Inclusivity Thrust Must Not Lower Professional Standards

Re: Membership Reaches 40,000 Mark, The PEGG, November 2003.

The article states, “APEGGA is striving to become a more inclusive regulatory body by adopting the ‘Kananaskis Model,’ which would have the Association welcome a broadened range of engineering geoscience and related practitioners.” We appear to have adopted this concept without a clear discussion of precisely what “inclusivity” is, and of the changes it will mean to our Association, and, most importantly, to the professionals which it represents.

It appears that if the proposed changes are implemented, a large number of individuals who at present do not meet the standards of APEGGA membership could join. Council recognizes that potentially thousands of people would be eligible.

The requirements proposed for the new categories of membership will be less stringent that the existing ones for professional engineer, geologist and geophysicist. The important question is, do these less stringent requirements represent an acceptable lowering of the standard of professional knowledge and experience needed to protect the public in Alberta?

The creation of limited scope-of-practice categories of professionals, while retaining the use of the title of engineer, geologist or geophysicist in any form, may fail to provide enough distinction between the types of licensed individuals for informed understanding by the public. It also undermines the recognition of the “full” professional member category: to emphasize to the public the differences between the categories of members will be a defensive action; the mere existence of several tiers of certified competence weakens overall credibility of the profession by creating uncertainty.

In most professions, entrance standards are raised with time, not lowered, as the body of knowledge increases and the record of experience necessary for independent practice lengthens. APEGGA is no exception and for decades its standards have been continually adjusted upwards to reflect the increasing responsibility of its professionals. Any action to accommodate more membership in APEGGA by reversing this trend should be evaluated carefully.

It is unclear which are the related disciplines targeted in the “inclusivity” drive. That drive, however, should not be confused with efforts to assist foreign trained engineers, geologists and geophysicists in obtaining professional status with APEGGA. That specific challenge is being partially addressed in From Consideration to Integration, a joint venture between Human Resources Development Canada and CCPE.

Discussions so far on that issue show that it is entirely possible to develop approaches to better integrate qualified foreign-trained applicants without broadening the scope of membership or creating new classes of APEGGA professionals.

The simpler alternative to the changes proposed to achieve “inclusivity” is to continue working toward our mission: “To serve society and protect the public by regulating, enhancing and providing leadership in the practice of the professions of engineering, geology and geophysics.”

Or we may decide that our goal should be, exclusively, to protect the public by promoting excellence in the practice of engineering, geology and geophysics. Any change in the direction of our professional standards merits careful, deliberate consideration by the entire membership before it is adopted by APEGGA, with full understanding of the implications.

Dr. Philippe Erdmer, P.Geol.
Academic Examiner, Board of Examiners
Dr. Gary Faulkner, P.Eng.
Chair, Board of Examiners

Engineers Play Role
In Shift from Fossil Fuels

Re: President’s Notebook, Mega-Project Management, The PEGG, January 2004.

APEGGA President Mike Smyth, P.Eng., mentions our almost total fiscal dependence on the extraction of fossil fuels. He is right to do so.

He correctly points out that oilsands mega-projects are threatened by cost over-runs and the finite nature of oil as a resource.

However, he neglects to mention the threat from market reversals. The world will eventually begin to address the reality of global warming, and continuing to deny its existence is becoming akin to believing the earth is flat. Climate change is almost universally accepted as evidence pours in daily.

As the world accelerates activities toward the wise use of fossil fuel assets and radically reduces dependence, there will come a steep decline in the value of those assets. This may not come for another five, 10 or even more years, but it will come, and well within the proposed lifespan of an oilsands mega-project.

No amount of crying about NEPs or carbon taxes will suffice because the world market and consumption levels will dictate the terms.

Already Shell, BP and others are developing alternate strategies for a post-petroleum world. Engineers are devoting their energies toward such efforts as hydrogen technology, wind and solar power development, and a high efficiency economy.

Instability in the regions with most of the easily extractable oil reserves is at its highest point ever. The new government of Ontario has promised to phase out coal-burning power stations by 2005.

So, to answer the APEGGA president’s question, we engineers must take on the responsibility of economic diversification and become a major player in the new, wise-use economy.

Denmark has cornered the market in wind turbines, one of the fastest growing commodities today. Solar panel designs are becoming smaller and more efficient every year, some are now designed to be roof shingles. Cogeneration is being adapted into many new developments because it makes economic sense. The federal government created economic incentives immediately after Kyoto was ratified, and the new Paul Martin government is set to increase those incentives.

As more of these developments come and users discover their economic advantages, the process will accelerate. The only reason inefficiency has been so popular in the past is that the fuels were subsidized and plentiful, and the environmental consequences were not factored in. This scenario is no longer acceptable to the majority of breathing people.

So, fellow engineers, let’s put our shoulders to it and make sure Alberta remains the top economic performer in the 21st century Canadian economy.

David J. Parker, P.Eng.

Not Demystified at All

Re: Shaking Up Interest, and The Earth Really is Moving Under Our Feet, The PEGG, January 2004.

A reader is led to presume that the subtitle’s words, earthquake demystification, reflect Dr. Rogers' intent and that his expressions, "tectonic plates rubbing against each other," a "subduction earthquake in 1700," and "scientists [discovering how] to 'listen' to tectonic plates slipping under Vancouver Island," do serve this purpose as grand imagery.

Unsaid on the subject of plate rubbing, however, is that rock at subcrustal pressures is plastic. It deforms and is not subject to brittle fracture. Stress cannot build up. Stress release cannot be the cause of deep earthquakes.

As all the big earthquakes are deep, their science is not explained and certainly not demystified by talk of plates and rubbing.

Unsaid on the subject of subduction earthquakes is that subduction itself is a fanciful idea that violates common sense and known engineering principles:(1) A less dense (subducting) rocky mass cannot "sink" spontaneously into a medium of greater density; and (2) basal friction below a body the size of a continent is far too small by many orders of magnitude to drive the continental "plate" to surmount the adjoining "oceanic plate," causing the latter to "subduct."

Subduction is a theory lacking in essential support.

Also unsaid is how the scientists know they are hearing "plates rubbing" when they "listen" to their seismic vibrations. Usually, one hears what one is predisposed to hear, i.e. what is expected – in this case the passing fad, plate tectonics, pop science.

Readers who want to delve deeper should visit, which features books I’ve written or edited.

C. Warren Hunt, P.Geol.
Life Member

Quake Facts Wrong

Although I laud any attempt to demystify earthquake seismology, a quasi-professional journal such as The PEGG really ought to get its facts straight. You publish this for professionals and we should be able to rely on the data you print.

I cannot believe that Dr. Garry Rodgers claimed the last earthquake in Alberta occurred in 1984 in the Crowsnest Pass. He certainly didn't hold that opinion the last time I talked to him.

The Canadian National Earthquake Data Base shows five earthquakes of magnitude greater than 4.0 since 1985 in the latitude longitude block that contains Alberta. Two of these were within the political boundaries of Alberta.

There are quite a few seismic events in southeastern B.C., but Alberta is by no means quiet. If we reduce the lower threshold to magnitude 3.0, there are many more. The result is even more interesting if you look at a map of all reported earthquakes in Alberta.

I suspect that what Dr. Rodgers actually said was that there aren’t very many significant earthquakes in Alberta. He apparently neglected to mention, however, an odd event that occurred in the 1950s near Snipe Lake. There isn’t very good data but a magnitude of 5.2 seems plausible for that one.

You can verify these things yourself if you want. Visit

Dr. Edo Nyland, P.Geoph.
Professor Emeritus, Geophysics
University of Alberta

Overseas Engineering

Re: Sending Engineering Work for Canadian Projects Overseas May Lead to Ethical Dilemmas and Threaten Public Protection, by Nigel Histon, P.Eng., The PEGG, November 2003.

The referenced paper raises very important matters about the future of our professions in the new global economy. While the general spirit of it is undoubtedly right, there are some points that I cannot agree with.

The concern that foreign engineers don’t fall under APEGGA's jurisdiction, hence they cannot be effectively controlled, doesn't bother me at all. It is not a concern of an engineer-doer (the term I like to use) but a scream of a bureaucrat when he sees that something evades his control and regulation. Also, in many countries the engineers are just as effectively controlled by their local associations.

The concern that Canadian projects are better served by Canadian engineers, familiar with local conditions and codes, is valid but it doesn't justify a tenfold increase in price when it is done in Canada as opposed to the "Third World.” The urge to get things "quick, cheap and dirty" has penetrated our society.

In any department store, 150 per cent of merchandise is made in developing countries. It is generally of very low quality, but it is affordably priced and there is lots of it. I suppose our Canadian workers could do it better, but the public falls for the cheap.

And the concern for the "best protection" of the interest of the public? The public wouldn't care one way or the other. It only recalls of engineers when something fails. The design work coming from overseas is acceptable quality, otherwise it wouldn't pose a problem to us.

So let's face it: the only party at a loss from globalization is us, the engineers (or geoscientists). We indeed may wake up one day and find that there is no more work for us here in Canada.

But what can we do? There is no way we can compete with those who are willing to work for far less.

That's why we need to join our forces and lobby for the government to impose protectionist measures in our professions to guard the local market. Not unlike the regulation for RRSP investments: 80 per cent of the eligible money must be invested in Canadian funds. Say, in a Canadian-built project, 80 per cent of engineering work must be performed by Canadian engineers.

The government would be interested in it too: if all the work escapes overseas, who will pay taxes?

Konstantin Ashkinadze, P.Eng.
Edmonton, Alberta

Photo Mix-Up

Re: Military Engineers Donate Books Marking Their Centennial, The PEGG, January 2004.

There’s a face familiar to me among the military Engineers pictured, but I quickly realized you need a course in military ranks and possibly in subject identification as well.

Ralph Gienow, Lt.-Col. (Retired), is second from the left. The gentlemen making the presentation wearing the four stripes is a colonel, not a general. And it looks like you might have the rank correct for the gentleman on the right.

Lt.-Col. (Retired) Keith J. Rieder, P.Eng.
Cold Lake

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