Inclusivity Initiative Not Representative
of 'Strong, Competent' Association

Inclusivity Initiative Not Representative of ‘Strong, Competent’ Association

Re: Inclusivity

The seriousness of this topic is made apparent only through the very forceful writing of some Association members, published in the last PEGG. Prior to that, Council's attempts to implement this idea through what I consider dubious tactics had me fooled.

I commend those members who have stepped forward to defend a strong, competent EGG body in this province.

A quick review of APEGGA's website brings out some further observations.

The website mentions ". . . three groups of people who are qualified to practice . . . but who do not meet the current requirements for unrestricted professional licensure, primarily because their academic backgrounds do not meet current requirements." The sentence is self-contradictory, calling those qualified not qualified, and saying, in essence, requirements were not met because they didn't meet the requirements.

The website also says that "many of the individuals in the groups outlined above are well qualified . . . but are currently prevented from obtaining licensure.”

I am astonished that Council would make such an irresponsible statement in such a public manner. How was it decided these persons are well qualified? Were such individuals, who are by definition breaking the law, asked to fill out a survey? Were any actual individuals even identified?

From the AGM overview link we find ". . . the concept that there is a place inside the circle for all who practice engineering, geology and geophysics." What was left out of this statement are the words "even illegally."

Mike Smyth, P.Eng., while president, was quoted thus: "Each face to face discussion has ended with clear support for the inclusivity concept." I do not believe this statement and would ask that Mr. Smyth cease making it for now.

Think of a person practicing surgery without a license from the College of Physicians and Surgeons. I doubt very much the College would be wringing their hands and fretting about the future of this person's career.

Nor would they allow the reputation of the medical profession to be destroyed in the manner Council seems determined to inflict on engineering, geology and geophysics in this province.

The initiative should be dropped.

Andrew E. Bizon, P.Eng.

Fact Presentation ‘ Not Forthright’

APEGGA’s executive, including the executive director, and Council have lost sight of the fact that they are responsible to the members. Although they are empowered to make decisions affecting the Association and the profession, this does not mean that they should do so without a forthright presentation of the facts and adequate consultation with the membership.

The presentation of the facts should also include an objective description and analysis of other alternatives considered. There has been a tendency to portray the facts in a manner which justifies Council’s positions. The present power-based approach to governing the Association is unacceptable.

Articles in The PEGG promulgate the views of the executive and Council and do not present a balanced view of both sides of an issue. For example, much is written about APEGGA’s role in protecting the public. The position seems to be that more members mean more regulated practice which means better protection of the public.

The United States is a striking counter example to such thinking. I am aware of no data to suggest the public there is less well protected than the public in Canada. However, south of the border only about 15 per cent of practicing engineers are registered, compared with 70-80 per cent in Canada.

So bigger is not necessarily better. Has Council ever considered self-regulated models for the professions which might actually decrease membership numbers by being more specific as to who must register?

How many members does APEGGA have? The November 2003 issue of The PEGG welcomed the 40,000th member. This claim and the accompanying chart are misleading.

The membership includes about 27,000 professional members (practicing, non-practicing, licensees), 5,000 members-in-training, 3,500 life members and 3,500 university students. The registration of student members started about four years ago. This new student category accounts for about 25 per cent of the growth shown in the chart for the period 1992 to 2002, although this is not explained anywhere.

When membership data are being presented, the numbers should be reported by membership category so there is no misunderstanding on the number of registered professional members.

The inclusivity initiative is the latest example of a lack of consultation with membership. This initiative grew out of the discussions at Council’s May 2003 strategy session. During his term as president, Mike Smyth, P.Eng., liked to point out that members have been provided regular updates on this topic in The PEGG.

Unfortunately these updates contained few if any details on exactly how this was to work. In February, the president visited all the branches and found the support “very positive and encouraging” (President’s Notebook, March PEGG). However, the specific details by which members could really judge the acceptability of the proposal only became available in the March issue of The PEGG. This was a mere six-to-seven weeks before the necessary changes to APEGGA’s Regulations and the EGGP Act were to be brought to the Annual General Meeting for approval.

This was far too short a timeframe for member discussion and input. Is a vote at the AGM even the right approach to obtaining member approval on such an important issue? Legally, the answer is yes. However, attendance at this meeting is typically 100 to 200 members, so 50 to 100 people could determine a major a new direction for the Association.

Prior to town hall meetings in Edmonton and Calgary, some individual members and the Board of Examiners tried to point out that there were problems with the inclusivity proposal. They were told that they didn’t understand. The recent ballot for the President-elect and Council was used to promote the inclusivity initiative and this is quite inappropriate. There has been a long-standing policy that candidates for Council could not include a policy statement with their biographical information. Yet every candidate was asked for an opinion on inclusivity.

It almost appears that a pro-inclusivity position was a requirement to be on the ballot in that there was only one candidate who expressed any concern. He was nominated by a group of members, not by the Nominating Committee.

Inclusivity is an example of the kind of issue on which all members should be provided a vote. This has only been done once before. The issue was the proposed payment of an honorarium to the president. This vote only came about after the motion to implement the honorarium was tabled at the Annual General Meeting.

Council itself was split on the issue however the Executive Committee (president, executive director, president-elect vice-president and immediate past president) was not.

The material accompanying the ballot, in the view of some members, presented less than a balanced view of both sides of the issue. The preparation of material accompanying a ballot on any issue must be done by a group of individuals drawn from both sides of the issue.

Our elected representatives must behave in the best interests of all members, listen to opposing views and not belittle those who hold these views. The process for making decisions must be transparent and provide ample opportunity for member input and debate.

Council must be prepared to modify its position based on such feedback. Major decisions should be put to a vote of the membership. Where possible, Council should present at least two fully developed and viable alternatives, in addition to the status quo, to the membership for a vote.

Dr. K. C. Porteous, P.Eng.

Editor’s Note: After Dr. Porteous submitted this letter, Council reaffirmed its support of inclusivity and decided that the matter will go to a member vote. Council has also committed itself to consultation and communication beforehand, with an eye to refining the initiative.

‘Deeply Concerned’ About Initiative

I attended a recent APEGGA town hall meeting and the Annual General Meeting to listen to and discuss the proposed inclusivity initiative. I appreciate the opportunity Council has given the membership to provide input and dialogue into the process. However, I am still deeply concerned about the proposal, especially now that it will be put to a mail ballot

Council has made it clear that the reasoning behind the initiative is to capture a group of individuals that are operating at the periphery of engineering and make them members. By having these people as members, APEGGA can govern their practice. These are foreign-trained graduates from uncertified universities, graduates from non-certified engineering programs in emerging technologies, and non-engineer university graduates working alongside engineers (e.g. chemists and physicists).

Until the AGM I did not fully understand why the existing designations (P.Eng., P.Geol., P. Geoph., M.I.T. and R.P.T.) were not adequate to describe or classify these individuals. Nor did I understand why there was no intent to have any form of testing to validate or certify these individual's credentials.

At the AGM it was revealed that the P.Eng. designation is based upon Canadian standards and cannot be changed to encompass these individuals. What was not said was that the P.Eng. designation must not be diluted to encompass these individuals.

By giving these individuals, in essence, the ability to practice unsupervised, the P.Eng. designation, formerly proposed to be called R.Eng. (the title is under review due to member comments.) The main difference is that a P.Eng. self-defines their practice, within a scope they feel they are competent to practice, whereas those with a defined scope of practice written out by the board of examiners.

What seemed to be missed in the entire discussion was that Council has started with the end result without fundamentally asking if the end result is required. The end result they have started with is that a new classification is required.

If you read through all the FAQs and watch the presentations, the basic question is never asked or answered is, "Do we need a new designation for unsupervised practice?" I think if you ask this question, most members would want to know why this is required, as there are existing means for these people to become professional members under the current system.

Foreign-trained graduates and those in uncertified (emerging) engineering programs can challenge or take examinations become professional members.

Non-engineering graduates can do the same. It was identified that under the existing system individuals with no formal training can also challenge the examinations to become professional members.
Allowing people to circumvent this system does a great disservice to those individuals that have taken the difficult engineering programs at Canadian universities or taken the examinations to verify their foreign qualifications.

What I find particularly telling about the debate is that the Board of Examiners is, in general, against this proposal (it was even suggested that the feeling among the board is unanimous). Previous letters to The PEGG against the proposal have not identified that a number of these individuals are on the Board of Examiners, the gatekeepers of the professions.

The proposal will be put to members in the form of a mail ballot, but the wording of the proposal so far is undetermined. As with any proposal of this nature, the wording of the question can be very important in determining the outcome.

As the ballot will be devoid of discussion and debate (except in articles published in The PEGG), a balanced presentation of the merits of the proposal will be difficult for the general membership to obtain. With all of Council seemingly in favour of the past proposal, I am not sure how councillors can genuinely understand or appreciate the extensive opposition to this new designation.

I have been pleased with APEGGA’s continuing trend towards improving the profession through initiatives such as Continuing Professional Development, Professional Practice Management Plans for permit holders and other similar initiatives.
I am of the opinion that if Council and the membership takes the time to consider the basic question, "Do we need a new designation for unsupervised practice?" that they will resoundingly be of the opinion that the answer is a simple "no.”

Mark C. Hughes, P. Eng.

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