On November 27, 2018, the Professional Governance Act received Royal Assent in the BC Legislature and became law. The Act represents the culmination of government’s Professional Reliance Review, which examined the current legislation governing qualified professionals, and the role their professional associations play in upholding the public interest.
In particular, the new Act consolidates government oversight of the professions of engineering and geoscience, among others, under a new Office of the Superintendent of Professional Governance. This Office will set consistent governance standards, including common ethical principles, increased public representation on Councils, enabling the regulation of firms, and providing whistleblower protection.
What happens now?
While it has received Royal Assent, the new Act will not immediately come into force. Rather, it will be implemented over time via regulations for the various provisions within the legislation. As each regulation is developed and details are determined, it is expected to involve its own consultation period. It is likely that it will take three to 5 years for the Act to be fully implemented.
There are two major elements of the new Act are currently the subject of a consultation process. First, the Act suggests that before any engineer or geoscientist takes on any project, they would need to file a declaration of competence and conflict of interest with the regulator. Second, the Act suggests broadening practice rights to include agrologists, biologists, and applied science technologists and technicians.
We have significant concerns with both these provisions, their risks, and potential for unintended consequences. Government has released an intentions paper on these topics—as well as corporate regulation—and is inviting comments until March 4, 2019. Engineers and Geoscientists BC is responding and is involved in direct consultation with government in order to ensure, to the best of our ability, that these changes to the regulatory model are carefully considered and effectively implemented. Members are also welcome to submit their own views directly to government.
In addition, the Act details new rules for the number of Council members, term lengths, and a new merit-based appointment process; as Engineers and Geoscientists BC’s 2019 election process will need to adhere to these rules, we have been proactively seeking input so we can be in a position to advise government on what we think would work best.
What action is Engineers and Geoscientists BC taking?
We continue to engage with government and other stakeholders to articulate our concerns that any changes should benefit the overall public good and support key regulatory priorities identified by Engineers and Geoscientists BC to that end.
At this time, we are:
- Working with Council and a working group of members with senior experience in relevant areas to develop a response to government’s intentions paper on the regulation of firms, competency declarations and conflict of interest declarations, and practice rights of professionals; and
- Proactively seeking input on proposed models for Council elections and nominations so we can advise government on what we think would work best.
What action can I take?
We encourage members to get involved by reviewing the current consultation paper and submitting their feedback. While the Professional Governance Act is now law, it only sets the framework for the new model—the regulations still to be developed will be the most important component because they will specify how the new legislation will be implemented. The consultation period for each regulation will be an important opportunity to ensure government understands the complexities, risks, and unintended consequences of any proposed policy change.
The comment period on the intentions paper for the current regulations under review—declarations of competence and conflict of interest, practice rights, and corporate regulation—is open until March 4, 2019. The paper and comment form are available here.
To help keep the association informed, members providing submissions to government are welcome to forward a copy of that feedback to [email protected].
The key to successfully improving the framework and protecting the public interest will be careful, well-considered implementation of the office and these changes. We are calling on government to be cautious and to work with the impacted regulators to ensure that the risks associated with sweeping change are identified and mitigated.
More information about the Professional Governance Act is available on our website. If you have questions, please contact [email protected].