Terri-Jane Yuzda



Editor's Note: Following is a report on the most recent APEGGA Council meeting, held Feb. 6 at the new Calgary Conference Centre in the Association's new Calgary office. This was the fourth meeting of five in the current Council year. The next meeting is Thursday, April 24, again at the Calgary Conference Centre.

Two new categories of APEGGA licensure were on the cusp of provincial approval when Council met, as well as a number of other changes to the statute the Association operates under. The Standing Policy Committee on Learning and Employment has approved registered professional technologist designations in geological and geophysical work. Unlike technologists with the existing R.P.T.(Eng.) designation, R.P.T.(Geol.) and R.P.T.(Geoph.) technologists will not be required to be registered with the Alberta Society of Engineering Technologists.

In a report to the government committee, Executive Director Neil Windsor, P.Eng., said: "APEGGA views this new category of licensure as an innovative way to include persons not fully qualified for full professional licensure but who, by their education and experience under the supervision of a professional, have attained a high level of skills within a specific area of practice."

Associations across Canada are watching APEGGA as "we seek to find ways to include others who do not qualify for full professional licensure, without lowering the standards of public safety in any way," said Mr. Windsor.

Other changes to the Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions Act are:

  • Provisions to allow APEGGA to cancel the license of members who, after due notice, fail or refuse to provide necessary Continuing Professional Development Program documentation. This gives the mandatory CPDP the power to deal with members who refuse to comply.

  • The replacement of first vice-president with president-elect. Currently, the person nominated for president - by convention the first vice-president - can be challenged at election time. Because of the amount of preparation and transition needed to become president, Council wanted to make sure the successor is solidly in place a year in advance.

  • Additional requirements for permit holders. Each permit holder will need to put in place a professional management plan and to have its responsible member attend a permit to practice seminar once every five years, although Council will be allowed to waive these two requirements in a particular case if it decides doing so is appropriate. Also, each permit holder will also be required to notify the registrar when the responsible member changes or the firm no longer qualifies for a permit.

  • Removal of provision for a Council member to sit on the Enforcement Review Committee. This is to eliminate the potential for conflicts of interest when the ERC makes recommendations to Council.

  • Replacement of the existing Code of Ethics with a new one. This follows a broad consultation process to update the code. Members approved the new code at the 2002 Annual General Meeting.

  • Provisions allowing for the smooth and quick registration of members already licensed with associations in other Canadians provinces and territories. This applies to professionals moving here from the other jurisdictions, providing they are in good standing and have qualifications and standards equivalent to APEGGA's. It allows the Board of Examiners to delegate to the Registrar or his designate the authority to issue a license to individuals who clearly meet all the requirements, with formal approval of the Board to occur at the next meeting.

Communication Plan Approved

A three-year communication plan is turning fresh data and opinions into new strategies, but it will not force APEGGA into new spending. Council retains the ultimate say on where money is spent through the annual budgeting process, Council heard while considering the APEGGA Three-Year Strategic Communication Plan.

Executive Director Neil Windsor, P.Eng., said: "This is simply a strategy. Some of the items we will be able to proceed with, but others we don't have the funds for right now." For example, the Association will go ahead with rebranding to make APEGGA more visible and its roles more easily identifiable. A complete redesign of The PEGG, however, is on hold, although staff is improving the publication edition by edition.

Council approved the communication plan with one new item. On the recommendation of CCPE Director Dr. Fred Otto, P.Eng., the plan now recommends that APEGGA strive to increase member awareness of national issues that affect engineers, geologists and geophysicists.

The plan, which covers strategies into 2005, draws from an independent communications audit and a stakeholder opinion survey, both conducted last year. APEGGA has had a formal communications strategy in place since 1990, with updating and revamping in 1993 and 1998.

B.C. Merger Nears Referendum

APEGGA continues its western watch as two B.C. organizations move closer to a one act, one association system. Legislation could be in place by the spring of 2004 to merge B.C.'s engineering and geoscience self-regulating association with the province's engineering technology society, Council heard.

The players are the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia, or APEGBC, and the Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of B.C., or ASTTBC. The proposal has considerable support within both B.C. associations, and proponents anticipate that a referendum in coming months will move the proposal forward.

If successful, the new B.C. system will give member technologists and technicians some scope of practice to work independently but will also make them subject to regulation and discipline under the Act. Council is monitoring progress of the proposal but has not indicated support for the project or any plan to consider the same concept in Alberta.

The merger issue does, however, hint at the challenges APEGGA faces when it looks ahead. There are calls for more inclusiveness in the professions across the country, and recent years have seen a blurring of many of the traditional boundaries between technologies and disciplines. It all adds up to APEGGA remaining open to new directions while it protects the public, serves members and maintains high levels of professionalism.

APEGGA President Ron Tenove, P.Eng., said APEGGA could someday represent a broad continuum of professions, which ladder up to professional engineers, geologists and geophysicists. A national issue is the placement of immigrants whose education and experience don't always meet Canadian standards. A laddering system would allow them to earn some professional status while working within limited or defined scopes, Mr. Tenove said.

Videos Generate Ethics Discussions

What if a plant were expelling enough hot water that it appeared to be increasing the temperature of a community's lake and even killing fish? And what if one professional engineer pressured another to save their employer money by not presenting a solution?

The characters and the scenario are fiction, but the ethical dilemmas they bring to life are exactly the kind students could face in the real world. Council watched one of a series of three videos that dramatize fundamental ethical questions as teaching aids for universities.

The idea, said Professional Development Director Len Shrimpton, P.Eng., is to give instructors the tools to generate discussion. The videos' creators wanted meaningful vignettes with good production values, he said.

APEGGA and Professional Engineers Ontario each put $45,000 into the project, and the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Manitoba added another $5,000. The result is a learning module that's appropriate for students across Canada but is also available for use by members-in-training and members.

The videos don't present easy answers, Mr. Shrimpton said. Instead, they allow for open-ended, guided discussions.

Online Learning Support Continues

An online learning marketplace dubbed PEGGasus may yet take flight, even though $200,000 in provincial funding that the project team originally hoped for didn't come through. Council agreed to keep APEGGA funding of $25,000 in place for 2004 as the project team attempts to launch a two-year pilot.

After Council's original approval in February 2001, the project team focused on securing money. But progress stalled after the province and another major donor declined to participate. The federal government at first committed $200,000, then reduced the figure to $170,000 because of the lack of progress. That figure could shrink again unless the project moves along, said Professional Development Director Len Shrimpton, P.Eng.

PEGGasus is a Web marketplace for use by members and professional development providers. Users would be able to register, pay for, evaluate and even take various courses, conferences and seminars online. PEGGasus would provide access to other professional development opportunities as well, on and off-line, ranging from publications to PD lunches.

APEGGA is the lead organization in the project, which would need about $331,000 in money for the two-year trial, as well as $225,000 worth of gifts in kind. The project remains about $112,000 short on the cash side.

In addition to APEGGA, partners so far are the University of Alberta, Human Resources Development Canada, the National Research Council, Terra Prime Development (the software developer) and several industry supporters. APEGGA so far has spent less than $2,000 on the project.

If the project catches on, it may spread to include other associations and a wide variety of professional development providers and opportunities. Because the concept is untried, however, it's difficult to predict whether PEGGasus will meet a market need. "Unless we build it, we don't know what kind of market we're dealing with," Mr. Shrimpton said.

Code of Ethics Work Lauded

Council praised the Practice Standards Committee and several of its subcommittees for a thorough job in revising APEGGA's Code of Ethics and the ethical practice guideline that stems from it. "This involved a huge amount of work over an extended period of time," noted Coun. Andy Gilliland, P.Eng., during a discussion leading to the guideline's approval.

Added President Ron Tenove, P.Eng., "This process has seen a long life and the result is very good."

At the time of the Council meeting, Alberta Legislature passage of a new Code of Ethics was imminent, as part of a number of amendments to the Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions Act. Council passed the new code in February 2000, and members approved it at the APEGGA Annual General Meeting of April 28, 2000.

Council Calls on Executive Committee
To Implement Drinking Water Position

APEGGA's Executive Committee will present a new position paper on drinking water quality to the provincial government and take other steps to implement the position as the committee sees fit, Council decided. The paper acknowledges that Alberta's standards are high and that its regulations for municipal drinking water "provide a comprehensive program for ensuring safe and publicly acceptable water supply systems."

However, the position paper says more and better monitoring and reporting are needed within the systems to make sure regulations are met and standards maintained. All facilities delivering and producing drinking water in the province should meet Alberta Environment design and quality standards, the paper says. And the role of APEGGA professionals in building, operating and improving water systems should increase.

The third draft of the paper went before Council in November, when Council called for an addition. The new item in the final draft names protecting drinking water sources as one of eight major roles for APEGGA professionals.


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