• Expanding APEGGA's Base
    Among Geoscientists

    By Dan Motyka, P.Eng.

    Alberta's earth science community put on quite a show at Geo-Triad '98, a major conference and exhibition held in mid-June at The University of Calgary. It also provided a proof of the synergy flowing from professional groups -- in this case, the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists (CSPG), the Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists (CSEG) and the Canadian Well Logging Society (CWLS) -- working together to stage a convention and trade show, which, in terms of attendance and profile, far exceeded what these technical societies might achieve working on their own.

    The exhibit, which filled the Olympic Oval, was truly world class -- a show-and-tell opportunity for Alberta geoscience expertise and technology, as well as a chance to expose Albertans to what's happening elsewhere. The organizers of the event, such as Jim Reimer, P.Geol., of CSPG; Doug Uffen, P.Geoph., of CSEG, and many others, deserve our congratulations.

    Common Interest

    Fortunately, Geo-Triad '98 overlapped with APEGGA Council's June meeting in Calgary. That gave us the opportunity to invite some members of the geoscience community to join us for our pre-Council dinner. Our guests included Dr. Hugh Miller. P.Geo., of Newfoundland, current president of the Geological Association of Canada, and vice chair of the Canadian Council of Professional Geoscientists. Along with other members of APEGGA Council, I enjoyed renewing some old acquaintances and meeting some people I had not met before. I also was reminded that while engineers, geologists and geophysicists sometimes may think they live in separate worlds, they have much in common -- a fact further reiterated by much of the integrated high technology on display at Geo-Triad '98.

    Many geoscientists have embraced and recognized the value of APEGGA. They included some of my predecessors as president, such as my former Gulf Canada colleague Bill Blair, P.Geoph., who passed away last month. We currently have two professional geologists (Alice Payne, P.Geol., and Neil O'Donnell, P.Eng., P.Geol.) and two professional geophysicists (John Boyd, P.Geoph., and Elaine Honsberger, P.Geoph.) on APEGGA Council.

    Admittedly, there are those within the geoscience community who, if they don't regard APEGGA with suspicion, then at least display some reticence and question the need to belong (sometimes suggesting that they are not providing a service that has a direct bearing on public safety or well-being).

    Public Impact

    As Alice Payne recently noted at a Council meeting, geologists may not be held to account for a bridge falling down but their advice could very well have an impact on the financial collapse of a company, thereby influencing the well-being of thousands of investors and other stakeholders. (Their impact is not just on economic well-being, as the advice of geologists and geophysicists increasingly impacts the environmental quality of our subsurface and groundwater.)

    The fact is that those who take professional responsibility for geological and geophysical work in this province are required to meet provisions of the Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions (EGGP) Act. Traditionally, APEGGA has preferred to employ the carrot rather than the stick to encourage geoscientists to register with the Association. That may change, in part because of rumblings in government circles. For instance, just this past month a major report was released by a Toronto Stock Exchange/ Ontario Securities Commission Mining Standards Task Force. The report, prompted, in part, by some high-profile financial failures within the mining sector, recommends better standards for reporting on exploration programs and estimates of reserves. Significantly, it urges formalizing the role of "Qualified Persons" involved in such evaluations. This, the report notes, requires that: "The integrity of the system, both in the field and in the areas of disclosure of exploration results, is backed by professional engineers and geoscientists who are regulated by provincial professional bodies with disciplinary powers."

    Geoscience Task Force

    Traditionally, an important contact point between APEGGA and the CSPG and CSEG has been the CSEG/CSPG/APEGGA Liaison Committee, which operates as one of APEGGA's standing committees. This committee has performed some valuable work as a channel of communication between the Association and these technical societies.

    Recently, in part as a result of a strategic meeting held in May, Council has decided to redouble APEGGA's efforts to reach out to the geoscience community, and initially our vehicle for doing so is a Council Task Force chaired by Councillor Neil O'Donnell. At the June meeting, APEGGA Council approved the task force's terms of reference, based on the following vision:

    "1)That geoscientists recognize the privilege and obligations of professional registration in their chosen profession.

    2) That they recognize the code of ethics in governing their conduct and protecting members of the public who rely on and trust their professional judgment and opinion.

    3) That they recognize that registration under a provincial statute can be better administered by APEGGA than by their technical societies, which would lose their focus if they became responsible for regulation under an Act like the EGGP."

    The task force already has outlined some possible steps to bring this about, including:

    • getting supportive messages into the undergraduate program in Alberta universities;
    • gaining broader support of licensing among both university faculty and provincial departments/agencies, and
    • collecting input from Alberta geoscientists, in order to understand their issues with respect to professional licensure.
  • The task force also suggests Permits to Practice for operating oil and gas companies be addressed. This, in my view, is an important point. Professionalism, is not just a matter of individual obligation, is it is a question of corporate responsibility. It's a message we must get through to the senior corporate decision-makers.

    Insisting that geoscientists one employs are properly registered (and thereby professionally accountable) isn't a case of doing APEGGA a favor, it is what is expected (if not demanded) under the law.