Nominating Committee Unfairly Portrayed

Re: Fact Presentation Not Forthright, Dr. K. C. Porteous, P.Eng., Readers’ Forum, May 2004 PEGG.

It is very clear that Dr. Porteous is passionate about the inclusivity issue, that he is standing up for his beliefs and that he is doing what he believes is right for our professions.

This is something that we should all aspire to. However, I found the insinuation leveled against the Nominating Committee in his remarks obectionable.

Dr. Porteous wrote: “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."

I am a member of the Nominating Committee and at no time and in no way was there ever any intent to do anything aside from provide the best slate of candidates possible for the election. I believe that Dr. Porteous owes the members of the committee a public apology for the derogatory light that was unjustly cast upon us.

Tom Greenwood-Madsen, P.Eng.


Fundamental Questions Remain Unanswered

Editor’s Note: The PEGG received the following as an open letter to newly elected members of Council.

Re: Inclusivity

The continuing members of Council and the executive director all strongly support the inclusivity proposal. This does not make it the right thing to do.

There are many questions which have not been answered, and the answers to other questions change as concerns are raised. At best the concept has been poorly researched and thought through, or alternately is simply ill conceived.

The fundamental questions yet to be adequately answered are: Why are we doing this? What problem are we trying to solve? How big is this problem?

Past-President Mike Smyth, P.Eng., says in his President’s Notebook, March PEGG, that the expected number of registrations under the inclusivity initiative would be about 100 over five years. When challenged on this at a Board of Examiners meeting, he acknowledged there was no basis for this number.

However, this is a crucial element in making any decision on inclusivity. If the number is correct, there is a lot of effort being expended to solve a non-problem. On the other hand, if the number is 5,000 to 10,000 over the same period, the question arises as to why APEGGA has not fulfilled its legal responsibilities of preventing unqualified people from practicing.

At the APEGGA Annual General Meeting, Executive Director Neil Windsor, P.Eng., found a way out of this dilemma when he stated that the primary target group for registration under inclusivity would be people currently practicing under the supervision of a registered professional. To my knowledge this claim had not been made previously in any publication or public forum.

The validity of such a statement certainly needs to be demonstrated. I suspect that it has no more basis in fact than the 100 registrations over five years. However, the important point is that the public is already protected because a registered professional is already responsible for the work.

Do these people even want to be registered? We don’t know. Do we really care that they are not subject to APEGGA’s code of ethics, discipline process and the continuing professional development program? I would suggest the answer is no.

Registration of such individuals would certainly increase the number of members and this may well be the hidden agenda behind this initiative. APEGGA’s administration seems obsessed with making the Association as large as possible.

What is really going on? From the engineering side of the house, there is a problem with defining exactly what engineering is. The definition in the EGGP Act is so broad it is meaningless. Council elected not to solve this problem.

Inclusivity represents a way around the problem. By making it possible to register everyone who appears to be doing “engineering” work, regardless of their formal training, the problem goes away.

This is misguided. First, many of these individuals, who may well be chemists, physicists, biologists etc., do not want to be members of APEGGA. Second, if they do not register, and many won’t, what will APEGGA do? If they are already practicing under a registered professional, it doesn’t matter, but if they are not then nothing has changed.

We need a clearer and more restrictive definition of the practice of engineering. If an individual is designing and implementing a new software operating system for the Toronto Stock Exchange, is this the practice of engineering? The frequent failure of the system or an error in the system would certainly harm the public.

If a chemist is developing “lab on a chip” technology which involves designing chips with the capability to analyze for certain chemical compounds, is this engineering? The use of such technology in medical laboratories has a public safety element.

Does managing the operation of a water treatment plant constitute the of practice engineering? One is tempted to say yes, given the e-coli problem in Ontario a few years ago. If you do say yes, does it then follow that the management of any food processing or food manufacturing plant also involves the practice of engineering?

I do not believe, and many other members agree, that any of these examples involve practicing engineering. Council’s support for the inclusivity initiative suggests otherwise and in fact some individual councillors have confirmed to me that these examples do, in their opinion, constitute the practice of engineering.

I would urge you as new members of Council to undertake your own thorough and independent review of inclusivity. This is an extremely important issue. Do not allow your objectivity to be swayed by those on Council who have been championing this initiative.

It is irrelevant that the previous Council worked on this for a year and that some egos may get bruised if the initiative is abandoned. The only matter of any importance is that the decision taken is in the best interests of the public, the professions, the members and the Association.

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

Executive Director’s Note: Dr. Porteous is entitled to his opinions and The PEGG will publish all items submitted by members, provided they are of reasonable length and in good taste. However, several statements contained in this submission do merit comment.

Firstly, to presume to advise newly elected members of Council to undertake their own “thorough and independent review of inclusivity” is to suggest that these professionals, in whom the members have placed their trust, have not indeed done so in any case.

Secondly, the suggestion of a “hidden agenda” is an incorrect and unwarranted innuendo, not worthy of a professional member. We would hope that members could keep their comments to the facts of the issue and maintain the debate at a professional level.

Finally, Dr. Porteous has presented his views on inclusivity in his letter and, as he has suggested before, it is important that the views of all members be made available to everyone. Over the coming months, as the consultation and communication process proceeds, and as we hear the views of all stakeholders, Council will be presenting additional details of how the proposed categories might be implemented and what the impact will be on members, potential members and the public. We invite readers to consider all the material that is made available, provide Council with your comments and, when the time comes for a decision to be made, to participate in the decision by casting your ballot in accordance with your beliefs.


Drive to Dilution

The drive towards inclusivity, like the issuing of more shares in a company, always results in a rendering down and dilution of the standards and values of the original material.

This is the bedrock of the discussion.

The proposals are for international applicants, for those with academic backgrounds that do not match APEGGA’s established syllabli, and for those from assorted sciences and who would probably be better advised to set up their own association to deal with their specific talents.

In each instance standards are the issue.

Surely APEGGA, while maintaining its own high standards, could liase with other organizations which, although slightly different in composition, such as the assorted scientists mentioned in The PEGG articles, also maintain a specialist faculty which values high standards in its own ranks.

While one can sympathize with the second group, that is no good reason to lower the standards of APEGGA. Life is not fair, but to deliberately subordinate the qualifications of the majority in favour of a minority seems to be grossly unfair.

“Internationally trained practitioners” are coming to Canada to partake in the Canadian quality of life, which was developed and built on Canadian values, Canadian standards, Canadian blood, Canadian sweat, Canadian examinations, Canadian financial resources, Canadian tradition, Canadian heritage and Canadian tears. While it should not be the aim to “exclude” deserving practitioners who desire to embrace all that Canadians are, one should be careful to avoid the trap of “including” a minority who wish the majority to bend to their demands and requirements for inclusion into a system they did not found, build, develop or finance, but wish to exploit for their own personal gain.

Despite the noble sounding rhetoric emanating from politicians and people in leadership positions, Canada’s high standards and values are being diluted insidiously. It would be sad to see APEGGA follow suit. The empirical evidence of history proves that once lost, it is extremely difficult to rebuild standards, values and morality in any society.

By the way, as an example of the insidious nature of decline, there is no such word as “inclusivity.”

L. MacKenzie
(Spouse of a Life Member)
Umhlali, South Africa

Editor’s Note: Although standard dictionaries do not include “inclusivity,” its usage was quite well established before APEGGA adopted it. A Google search, in fact, turns up 59,000-plus citations.


Misfocused Headline

I was amused by your online headline, Council Encourages Members to Learn More About New Category.

This statement implies that we members are ignorant of the facts and are complaining needlessly. Does it not occur to you that all this furore may have been caused by the fact that we understand exactly what this is all about and don't like it?

May I suggest that your next headline read, Members Encourage Council to Learn More About What the Members Actually Want?

Al Faux, P.Geol.
Surrey, England


Fewer Inclusivity Restraints Needed

I express my concerns about inclusivity because I am an example of a person who would not be considered eligible to become a P.Eng. under this new proposal. My area of expertise was as an electrical engineer with specific expertise in microwave engineering. I gained this expertise while doing research in physics for a PhD degree.

Indeed, I was one of very few persons with such expertise in Alberta for many years prior to my registration. My lack of registration created a problem since I could not offer my services despite my expertise. It took the concerted efforts of some enlightened engineering educators to help me obtain my registration.

It is not necessary to restrict the area of practice of those persons with legitimate expertise in an area of engineering and frequently more comprehensive and in greater depth than most engineers would have, just because they lack an undergraduate engineering degree. No registered engineer attempts to consult or offer services outside his/her area of expertise, as that would contravene APEGGA licence regulations as well as professional responsibility and ethics.

The fact that one holds an undergraduate degree in some branch of engineering does not guarrantee that the person is an expert in any particular area. Every engineer develops narrow areas of expertise and this is usually gained through practice and experience. Indeed, this is the strength of the profession.

Today, there are few if any engineers who have a comprehensive understanding of the entire field of, say, chemical or electrical engineering. The knowledge base is far too large. It is, therefore, not necessary to impose the restrictions on the practice of those registered who lack an engineering undergraduate degree and to impose on them a different professional designation. Globally, engineering is now practiced by many professionals who do not have an engineering education because of the degree of specialization now necessary to provide first-class, up-to-date information to clients is not always available via the engineering education route. A professional in any field of endeavour is one who has expertise in that field and this can be gained in other ways than through university education in that field.

APEGGA should stop trying to turn the clock back and move forward into the 21st century. It should introduce flexible regulations to encourage trained scientific professionals to be included in the eligible membership of APEGGA without the proposed constraints.

Failure to do this will only encourage the misuse of the term "emgineer" by those who may not be adequately trained and not have the expertise to offer such dervices to the public.

H. A. Buckmaster, Ph.D., P. Phys., P. Eng, P.Geoph.
Victoria, B.C.


Climate Change Causes Have Had a Hearing

Re: Climate Change Science Actually is Important, David Barss, P.Geol., Readers’ Forum, April 2004 PEGG.

Mr. Barss’s suggestion that the cause of climate change has not had a proper hearing is specious. The International Panel on Climate Change report is based upon review of the all peer-reviewed articles published in the atmospheric sciences and therefore represents the findings of the entire atmospheric science community.

The most recent report of the working group on climate change was authored by 120 of the world’s leading climate scientists with contributions from over 500 additional climate specialists. The report was peer reviewed three times by 300 experts in the field. The resulting document represents a remarkable consensus of opinion.

To suggest that the IPCC report is politically motivated, as some have indicated, represents an incredibly cynical view of the integrity of scientists. The document is also remarkable for it candor. Uncertainties are not discounted; they are reflected in the interpretations. To have another review by non-experts is unnecessary.

Mr. Barss’s reference to the many detractors overstates the scientific disagreement. The IPCC committee reviews all refereed articles in the field. If the detractors have published refereed articles in recognized journals, then their findings were taken into account.

If they have chosen to publish non-refereed articles or publish in obscure journals, then one must wonder why they have chosen not to have their findings reviewed by their peers. Are they more interested in influencing the political debate or are they truly interested in doing good science?

Mr. Barss’s statement that the cause of climate change remains unproven may be correct, in an absolute sense – the question can only be dealt with probabilistically – but this does not negate the credible evidence that indicates that anthropogenic greenhouse gases are a major contributor to this change.

Much of the climate warming from 1900-1940 can be attributed to natural forcing (i.e. solar output and volcanic emissions), while natural forcing is not a plausible explanation for warming in the later half of the century. The increased heat trapping caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gases is necessary to account for the rise in global temperature from 1976 to present.

The question debated amongst climate experts is not whether greenhouse gas emissions are driving climate change. Rather, it is about how much change will occur and how it will manifest itself.

The argument that we cannot afford to address climate change only makes sense if the impacts of climate change are discounted. Citing the death of 30,000 Europeans in the heat wave last year; Sir David King, chief scientific adviser for the British government, recently stated that the consequence of climate change are “far bigger in its manifestations than any terrorist action could possibly be,” and that “we face a period of massive economic and political instability.”

In Canada glaciers are receding and as a consequence melt water is diminishing. Flows in the Old Man and Peace rivers are at 60 per cent of their 1910 levels, and flow in the South Saskatchewan River at Saskatoon is at 19 per cent of historic levels.

To do nothing to address climate change is to pass these problems on to our children, meanwhile compounding the problem. The question is not can we afford to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; the question is can we afford not to do it.

By addressing the problem, in a meaningful way, a new wave of creativity and innovation will emerge.

J. Edward Mathison, P.Geol.

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