July, 2000

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Executive Director's Notes:

Mobility - Top Priority

By Neil Windsor, P.Eng.

Members of APEGGA Council has been extremely active during the past year in reaching out to APEGGA members to find out how they perceive their professional Association, what is of real value to them and what are the priorities for the years ahead. With more than 33,000 members working in many different disciplines and areas of society, quite naturally there were a multiplicity of answers to every question. However, one issue stood out above all others -- particularly so for geoscientists -- and that was mobility.

The reality is that we are competing in a global marketplace and that will become even more predominant as technology and communications bring us closer to the world markets. Consequently, our members need the ability to react quickly to market opportunities and that means ease of registration in other jurisdictions worldwide and the ability to practice wherever and whenever the opportunity arises.

That is not as simple as it sounds. Many countries have different requirements and even different standards, there are language and cultural differences, and different ways of doing business not to mention trade barriers. Yet the greatest barrier to true mobility of professionals remains the time required and difficulty of obtaining a licence to practice. Licensure is a critical component of any jurisdiction's ability to regulate the professions and protect public safety, and cannot be compromised simply for convenience. It remains then to determine how the difficulties can be overcome without impacting on public safety.

Reciprocal Agreements

For many years, CCPE together with the provincial/territorial associations have been negotiating reciprocal agreements with many countries of the world. The 1995 Washington Accord provides for mutual recognition of accreditation systems between Canada, U.S.A., Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland, Hong Kong and South Africa. Also in 1995, Canada, Mexico and the U.S. signed a Mutual Recognition Agreement under NAFTA that sought to make temporary access for professionals more achievable. Unfortunately, the reality is that, in Canada, jurisdiction of the professions rests with the province and territories, and in the U.S. it lies with the individual states. All 12 Canadian jurisdictions have "signed on" to the agreement but Texas is the only American state in compliance thus far, likely to access the Mexican market. In 1999, Canada and France signed a Mutual Recognition Agreement that acknowledges the equivalency of engineering degrees granted in the two countries.

Within Canada, great progress has been made during the past year. In the spirit of the Agreement on Inter-Provincial Trade signed in 1995, all 12 Canadian jurisdictions last June signed an Inter-Association Mobility Agreement that provides virtual mobility of professionals between all provinces and territories. This is a benchmark agreement that is being viewed by other professions as a model on which to build agreements appropriate to their particular needs and circumstances. In the U.S., no such mobility exists between government-appointed state boards that regulate the professions.

Geoscience Mobility

Under the auspices of the Canadian Council of Professional Geoscientists (CCPG), APEGGA representatives are playing a leading role in finalizing an Inter-Association Mobility Agreement for geoscientists and seeking means for even greater temporary mobility within Canada.

APEGGA Council has adopted the view that, if reciprocity with states in the U.S. is to be achieved, the best approach might be bilateral agreements with those states with which our members are most likely to be doing business. Accordingly, we have taken measures to establish working relationships with the western states and Alaska as well as the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). During the past two years, we have attended two meetings of the NCEES Western Zone; a joint Idaho/Washington Annual Meeting; a board meeting in Montana at the invitation of the board; two meetings of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER); and made formal presentations to the Governor of Idaho and to a meeting of the Montana/Alberta Bilateral Advisory Committee. Other provincial associations, particularly APEGBC, are working on a parallel front with other states. APEGGA is proposing to host a Mobility Forum in conjunction with the 2001 APEGGA Annual General Meeting in Calgary next April and we are hopeful that a strong contingent of state board representatives will be in attendance. Much remains to be done before agreements are put in place. However, we have made considerable progress toward our goals and we will continue to pursue agreements that enhance mobility of our professional members.

Government Supportive

Of considerable importance is the support we have received on several fronts. The Honourable Shirley McClellan, Alberta Minister of International and Intergovernmental Relations, and her staff, are very supportive of our efforts and have been instrumental in arranging opportunities for us to interact with appropriate authorities. Our own Minister, the Honourable Clint Dunford, Minister of Human Resources and Employment, has also offered support and encouragement for our approach to this important problem. As well, the Honourable Roger Simmons, Consul General for Canada to Seattle, Washington, has provided significant advice and support and will be a key player in future negotiations. And, of course, CCPE and the Canadian Engineering International Board (CEIB) continue to work on the international front.

APEGGA Council is very aware of the value of mobility to engineers and geoscientists and has made this a high priority action item for the immediate future. Efforts to seek reciprocal agreements will continue both within Canada and with other jurisdictions. These matters take time but their importance dictates that we must move forward as expeditiously as possible.

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