Terri-Jane Yuzda



Geoscience Issues Receive APEGGA Attention


APEGGA President

You will read a number of articles in this issue about the geoscientists (geologists and geophysicists) in APEGGA. What do you know about the 4,200-plus geoscience professionals in Alberta and the 7,600 across Canada?

Considering my career as a geotechnical engineer, until joining APEGGA Council I was not well versed in the definition and world of geoscientists. Maybe this is because their world is "deep" and I was always referred to as an "overburden" engineer. Perhaps as a group, to our public audiences, geoscientists are even less visible than engineers, and yet their impact on our economy and way of life is considerable.

We often associate geoscientists with the resource industries, the extraction of minerals and petroleum from the earth's crust. Their ability to "view" formation of and movements in the earth's crust is both an art and a science, perhaps even magical. More recently, geoscientists have become essential contributors to environmental science. We equate the geosciences with words like gusher, mother lode, geohazards, earthquakes, water supply and contaminant plume migration.

So what is current in APEGGA with respect to the role of geoscientists? I will briefly talk about four items:

  • Geosciences Task Force
  • Mobility
  • Alberta Securities Commission "qualified evaluator"
  • Licensure Compliance

In 1999, Neil O'Donnell, P.Eng., P.Geol., Elaine Honsberger, P.Geoph., and others addressed the key challenges that geoscientists were facing in their relationship with APEGGA. Proposals for change centered on communication, student interaction, the registration process and equity in the management of APEGGA. The goal was to implement actions to reverse the commonly held perception that being a member offered little more than compliance with the law and that the model for governing the engineering profession was not directly applicable to the geoscience professions. So here's what has happened:

  • The Geoscience Liaison Group was established and operates to address common issues and communication between APEGGA and CCPG, CSPG, CSEG, CIM and other domains of geoscientists.

  • The Board of Examiners provides credit for years of experience and may waive examinations from those who do have the full academic requirements for professional licensure.

  • Mobility of professionals has been identified as the top priority for geoscientists.

  • APEGGA leadership in facilitating national needs identified by CCPG is very strong with people like Gordon Williams, P.Geol., Bob Comer, P.Geoph. and Brenda Wright, P.Geol., in senior positions.

  • A Manager of Geoscience Affairs will soon join APEGGA and be located in the Calgary office to better serve the centre of population of geoscientists.

  • APEGGA has prioritized support for numerous geoscience initiatives, particularly those that facilitate increased visibility of the profession.
    I perceive the primary limitations to achieving the goals set forth by the task force are those where geoscientists need to take the lead as volunteers for specific tasks and present their view strongly to the geoscience audiences.

National mobility is a higher priority for geoscientists than for engineers. The nature of geoscience work requires frequent travel to sites in any province or territory. Currently 11 of the 13 provinces and territories require registration of geoscientists.

In 2001 an inter-association mobility agreement was signed for geoscientists, thereby providing greater ease of movement across Canada. However, geoscientists frequently are requested to undertake projects in another part of Canada on short notice, often in multiple jurisdictions, and even the mobility agreement might fall short of meeting the time available for registration.

Through the combined efforts of CCPE and CCPG, a study is now underway to determine the feasibility of some form of national license that would permit practice in any jurisdiction in Canada.

As an interim measure, Ontario-Quebec have initiated "visitor" procedures to allow immediate temporary cross-border recognition over a one-to-three year period, and lenience on the language requirement until full registration is required. Stay tuned!

As a result of several investor confidence issues in the oil and gas industries, the Alberta Securities Commission is introducing new requirements for oil and gas reserve estimation. When reserves data are reported on, estimates must be prepared or approved by qualified evaluators who are members of APEGGA, a Canadian association similar to APEGGA or a similar foreign body acceptable to the commission.

If the geoscience community, and APEGGA, manage this provision properly, the profile and public awareness of the value of a self-governing geoscience profession will be more tangible. APEGGA is accountable to enforce the expectations of this trust.

Licensure compliance is a significant issue, given that only 55-60 per cent of qualified geoscientists are licensed with APEGGA. At the recent Calgary President's Visit luncheon, a professional geologist challenged APEGGA to be much more aggressive in enforcement of the law.

He viewed our approach to date as weak and forgiving, with the net result that the law and APEGGA are simply not taken seriously by many members and non-members alike.

APEGGA has tripled its enforcement budget and dedicated an individual to the geoscience sector, but geoscientists and their employers must understand the legislation and apply moral suasion to those who are not licensed. The Manager of Geoscience Affairs in Calgary will continue to use the approach of encouraging people to see the value of professional licensure, but with the added emphasis that there is no middle ground once individuals or firms are shown to be in violation of the laws of Alberta.

We have a strong and vibrant geoscience profession in Alberta, and APEGGA is making good progress providing the recognition and programs that our professional geologists and geophysicists deserve.

Ballots in the Mail
On a closing note, APEGGA election ballots are in the mail. There is a rich diversity of skills and dedication in the list of candidates, so please exercise your responsibility and use your franchise to build the team you want to govern your profession.

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