Terri-Jane Yuzda


Let's hear from you...

The PEGG welcomes letters as an avenue for members to express opinions and concerns on issues or topics of interest to the professions. Share your experiences with other members.

Mail to:1500 Scotia One, 10060 Jasper Avenue NW, Edmonton, AB T5J 4A2, E-mail: glee@apegga.org or Fax: (780) 425-1722 your letters to the editor, signed with your name and address.

Of course we can't publish all letters received and can't run letters concerning specific registration matters before any APEGGA regulatory body. Do try and keep your letters to 300 words or less.

The Age of Council, The Value of our Work

A few topics and comments in the last PEGG impressed me as symptomatic of our plight as members of APEGGA, here in Alberta.

First, while I am sure that the new Council is well experienced and will be a dedicated crew, a letter in Readers' Forum really struck a
chord. Mel Wilde, P.Eng., questions what basis or point of view these people projected, prior to being elected (A Non-Voter's Reasons). What are their aims? Do they have any individual ideas on how to best promote the welfare of members?

Or is it the same old status quo that has kept our Association from progressing over the past 20 years? From the pictures I see in The PEGG, either we have a lot of premature aging in this group or we are starting to look like an old folks group.

Where is the young blood? Where are the new ideas? Who speaks
for the younger half? I am not in that younger half, demographically. But I sympathize with those who are not in the more senior ranks, who are not owners or partners, who are not in tenured positions.

My next comments concern the letter by Kevin Hewitt, P.Eng., on the fees U.S. and Calgary lawyers charge, versus those charged by engineers (Are APEGGA Members Short-changed?).It is no wonder we do not attract the best and brightest. I believe the last time that happened was as a hold-over of the 1960s and '70s technological cycle. That is a long time to be wandering in the desert.

During the latter 1980s and through the 1990s, our profession was under tremendous stress to cut costs and was subject to severe pricing pressures. That was the market.

As a result, and this is my punch line, well qualified people who could
begin to lead the way in the new millenium are few and far between. No wonder so many recent mega-billion-dollar projects are being mismanaged. Would it not have been more cost effective to have encouraged a better standard of P.Eng./P.Geol./P.Geoph. to participate in the business by better financial reward, thereby reducing these excessive wastes of money?

If $2 billion of overrun could have been saved -- and this is not implausible nor is this the last of the major overspends to come --- what does that translate into per member in remuneration? By my calculation it is $80,000 for each member over one year. Only a fraction of this amount would have been a worthwhile investment for the owners and investors; a return on their
investment likely better than the projects' forecast returns (before

APEGGA should better promote the idea of "value for money." It is
clear that the purpose of our profession is not only to protect the
public interest, in terms of safety or effectiveness, but also to make
a very good investment in society and the economy - one that
even an unsophisticated investor can understand. We are a cost-effective group; but we have not been able to convey the fact that cost effectiveness does not mean "lowest bidder."

Adam Mateyko, P.Eng.

Sound Reasoning Influences Disclaimers

Re: Why The Disclaimers? Readers' Forum, June PEGG

The mentioned letter raises concerns about disclaimers used by engineers working in construction, noting that these professionals "are attempting to withdraw from liability associated with the work that they have been hired to do."

In the first case referenced, the writer notes that a final record drawing contained a disclaimer stating that an engineer could not certify its accuracy, as the drawing was prepared based upon information received from the contractor. The letter's author argues: "As a municipality and future owner of these facilities, we want to make sure that the facilities are constructed in accordance with the drawings we approved and that the drawings are accurate."

This argument assumes that somehow the engineer is responsible to ensure that the contractor constructs the facility in accordance with the drawings. While the engineer may perform field services, she or he does not control the construction process and cannot be everywhere on site at once. Asking the engineer to assume responsibility for construction is unreasonable, and it demands a goal that is impossible to achieve.

A golden rule of appropriate risk management is, Do not certify that which you have not seen. The municipality has an agreement with the contractor that the contractor will perform the work in accordance with the drawings. It is the contractor's responsibility to meet the contractual requirements for workmanship and materials. The engineer attends the site to determine general conformance of the contractor's work with the contract documents.

Any record drawings that are prepared are based in part upon information submitted by other parties. While the engineer can and does assume responsibility for changes that she or he has instigated, the responsibility for the accuracy of the information prepared by others belongs with the party making
the change.

The letter seems to suggest that the engineer should certify things done by others. This is patently unfair and in some cases could result in allegations of fraudulent misrepresentation. It is also one of the leading reasons why engineers are drawn into far too many claims arising out of the errors of other parties. Responsibility and liability belong with those who commit the errors.

The second example in the letter refers to a drainage study that contained this disclaimer: "This document is for the sole use of the addressee and [the engineering firm]. The document contains proprietary and confidential information that shall not be reproduced in any manner or disclosed to or discussed with any other party without the express permission of the engineering firm." The author notes that the document is intended to "provide basic preliminary information to developers, the public and other engineers who must be doing detailed design."

While this may be true, it is also important to note that the inappropriate or misdirected use of such "preliminary" documents has led to countless claims against engineers. If the author of the report does not have the ability to control how it is to be used, then the engineer should not be expected to assume responsibility or liability for its misuse. Unfortunately, without the use of appropriate disclaimers, the engineer will often become embroiled in a claim situation that results from a lack of understanding of the basis for the report or the limited mandate that had been assigned.

This fact was clearly demonstrated in an Ontario court decision involving an environmental consultant's basic report on a mining property, following a very limited study. The consultant included a disclaimer similar to the one referred to above. The report found its way into the hands of a purchaser of the property, who initiated legal action against the consultant after determining that the property was more severely contaminated than expected.

The plaintiff argued that the disclaimer was not legally binding and should not be enforced. The court disagreed and in its findings noted that it was entirely appropriate for a professional to control the use of its reports and documents.

I agree that such disclaimers can and should be modified when the engineer knows how and why the report will be relied upon by others, but in many cases it is necessary to protect oneself against the possible misuse of documents by unknown parties.

The author stresses the importance of engineers balancing responsibility with the natural tendency to pass all liability on to someone else. In our experience in providing insurance coverage to engineers for the past 33 years, it is usually the opposite that is true -- others want to pass all liability onto engineers. We see indemnification clauses prepared by owners that seek to impose responsibility and liability on the engineer for deficiencies in work by contractors and others involved in construction. In fact, many if not most of these clauses impose liability that greatly exceeds the legal responsibility and liability established in Canadian law. We see owners that believe the engineer is a guarantor of the project's success.

Engineers have for too many years been on the losing end when it comes to assuming responsibility and liability. We applaud the efforts of those engineers who seek equitable agreements and reasonable limitations on liability.

Derek J. Holloway
Senior Vice-President
Construction Division
ENCON Group Inc

Professional Value -- And Educational Value

I have been following the debates regarding wage settlements for teachers, doctors and nurses in Alberta for some time. While these professions are connected to the public sector, there are similar issues in the private sector of the province involving other professions - ours among them.

I have not seen any wage and salary discussions that take an objective look at the true value of professional services, or at the value of the educational preparation of such people in a manner that a commercial enterprise might adopt. For example, nowhere is there any discussion of the "capital costs" of an education required by such professionals, let alone all those trappings in the tax codes for "depreciation" and recovery of investments in education by individual professional practitioners. Nowhere have economists talked
about the "lost opportunity costs" for students studying at university. No corporation, and certainly no multinational company, would make such a flagrant mistake in recovering wasting assets, or ignore depletion allowances.

If professionals were to use precisely the same methodology that is available to corporations, particularly multinational companies in the exploration areas of the economy, or in industry, then it would lead to a rather different set of answers to the question of professional compensation. If, in this way, employers and clients had to actually compensate professionals for what they were actually using, namely, not only professional practitioners' time, but also their expertise acquired in post secondary institutions, then two things immediately become apparent. First, all professional services in Alberta are being sold in the market at bargain basement rates, and
second, there has been a profound and unjustified transfer of wealth away from these middle-class groups of professionals to the CEOs and presidents of companies and their multi-million-dollar compensation packages.

There are none so blind as those that will not see.

Joseph M. Green, P.Eng., M.Eng.

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