Some Insight into the Permit to Practice

Compliance Director

APEGGA’s Compliance Department, with the support of the Enforcement Review Committee, spends a considerable amount of time and energy enforcing the permit to practice. This is one of the department’s major activities in working towards achieving Council’s goal of 100 per cent compliance with the licensing requirements of the EGGP Act.

The Compliance staff is supported in these endeavors by the Enforcement Review Committee, along with legal advice and investigators on an as required basis. Part 1 of the Engineering, Geological & Geophysical Professions Act provides the legislative authority for the ERC to carry out its responsibilities.

All corporations, partnerships or other entities engaged in the practice of engineering, geology or geophysics in Alberta require a permit to practice. The Compliance Department regularly contacts companies in a variety of industries, such as traditional consulting firms, manufacturing companies, oil and gas exploration companies and those in the environmental and advanced technology industries. One of the main requirements for a permit holder is to have a responsible professional member or members licensed with APEGGA to assume accountability for the practice of engineering, geology and geophysics.

The Compliance Department staff responds to many comments and questions pertaining to the permit. Although the permit has been a requirement for many years there still remains a certain misunderstanding over its meaningfulness and reason for existence. For this reason there is a continuing need to communicate.

The regular PEGG compliance column reports examples of enforcement cases and their resolution, many of which involve the permit to practice. For a change of pace, we thought it would be of interest for readers to see examples of the comments, questions and responses that come up during our discussions with companies contacted about permits.

Why is a permit required?

The simple answer is that a permit is required by law. The EGGP Act is a statute of the Province of Alberta, by which APEGGA has been delegated the authority to regulate the professions of engineering, geology and geophysics. Part 1 sections 2(1); 5(1) & 7(1) specify the regulatory requirement for a permit.

What is its purpose?

Albeit that it is the law, the permit provides a very valuable means to prevent non-qualified persons from practicing the three professions. It is primarily an instrument of quality control for the purpose of influencing the quality of professional practice within a corporation.

The permit holder is a corporate member and subject to the same standards of skill and ethics as an individual professional member of APEGGA. The responsible member requirement stated in regulation 48(1) (c) is for the purpose of ensuring this accountability within a corporation. New regulations 48(1)(d) & 48.1 were recently approved by the Alberta Government for the purpose of strengthening the importance and value of the permit by requiring permit holders to follow a professional management plan and attendance by responsible members at permit to practice seminars once every five years.

My company already employs APEGGA members. Why do I need a permit?

The permit to practice application requires a declaration by the chief operating officer or authorized designate. This individual is not required to be an APEGGA member but is on the application to ensure that there is a commitment from senior management that the company is aware of the requirement to perform and agrees to perform in accordance with the act.

What does a permit do for me?

Benefits to a corporation are that the quality of the product as well as credibility is enhanced. It provides conformation that the permit holder meets APEGGA’s high standards and conforms to a strict code of ethics. The permit is an entitlement to practice as well as hold out to practice by allowing the use of engineering, geology or geophysics on titles, business cards, company brochures and websites etc.

Holding a permit to practice and displaying the permit certificate signifies due diligence by the permit holder and could reduce liability in a civil suit. The fact that senior management provides an undertaking on the permit application has the effect of providing professional employees the benefit of protection from non professionals. The permit holder is subject to the same code of ethics as an individual.

Permits are just a money grab

APEGGA is a financially self-supporting, not-for-profit regulatory association. Enforcement of the permit to practice is a regulatory responsibility similar to individual registration with operational and administrative costs which must be recovered.

APEGGA’s Council recently recognized increased operational costs associated with permits and approved a 50 per cent reduction in annual dues for permit holders with one professional member and gross revenue of less than $250,000 in the preceding year. APEGGA’s fees are substantially lower than the fees of associations regulating other professions such as medical doctors, lawyers, dentists and chartered accountants etc.

I do not think that we practice engineering, geology or geophysics because we do not design or stamp drawings

The legal definitions of the practices of Engineering, geology and geophysics are located in the EGGP Act sections 1(q), 1(r) & 1(s). Part 1 of these definitions refers to several different activities. It is not necessary to be engaged in all of these activities to be legally practicing engineering, geology or geophysics.

For example, designing is only one of the activities listed in definition of the practice of engineering. It is very possible for a company to be engaged in the practice of engineering as defined in the EGGP Act without being involved in designing and stamping.

We do not require a permit to practice because we hire APEGGA members when we require their services

The primary question in this situation is, who decides when the services of an APEGGA member are required? One immediate connotation is the possibility of buying a stamp of convenience. The permit is an excellent vehicle to control this practice.
The Compliance Department must first define the core activity and determine if it constitutes the practice of engineering, geology or geophysics as defined in the EGGP Act. If it is determined to be one or more of the practices, the company in question would be required to obtain a permit to practice. The responsible member would then be involved with determining when the services of other APEGGA members are required.

Do we need a permit just because we employ APEGGA members?

The Compliance Department assumes that if APEGGA members are employed that the activities of the company constitute the practice. This is not always the case. It is often discovered as the result of contact with a firm employing APEGGA members that the activities are unrelated to the practice as defined in the EGGP Act and a permit is not required.

How can a company practice engineering, geology or geophysics?

A company cannot practice on its own. Although a corporation is a legal person, it has no life of its own and must conduct its activities through individuals properly authorized to conduct the affairs of the corporation.

The Compliance Department deals entirely with non-members. Approximately 90 per cent of the activity is proactive. First priority is given to complaints from members and the public. Currently less than 10 per cent of violations are received from these sources. We would like APEGGA members to be our eyes and ears and the source of all non-member violations.

Some type of evidence such as business cards, letters, reports, websites etc. is required to initiate contact. Because we are dealing with non-members, the source of the violation report is not revealed except in the remote instance of legal action. Most cases are resolved before reaching this stage.

Please contact APEGGA’s Compliance Department whenever you become aware of companies or individuals practicing or holding themselves out to practice while not being registered.


If you suspect a non-member or non-permitted company of operating in contravention of the EGGP Act, contact
Louise Heron
Toll-free 1-800-661-7020, Ext. 2325


Home | Past PEGGs | PEGG Search | Contact Us