Following the release of the final report on the Professional Reliance Review in June, government has signaled that it will be tabling new legislation during the Fall sitting of the legislature that aligns with the report’s recommendations.
While Engineers and Geoscientists BC remains concerned about the overall effectiveness of some of the recommendations in the report, government officials have been receptive to the specific concerns and recommendations raised by Engineers and Geoscientists BC.
Throughout the summer, Engineers and Geoscientists BC has been engaged in consultation with government, which included participating in nine full-day sessions with government officials, a meeting with the Minister responsible for the review, and several MLAs.
In each of these meetings, we address the key issues and concerns arising from the report’s recommendations, and voiced our concerns about the model’s overall effectiveness and its applicability to the professions of engineering and geoscience.
Our key concerns related to the recommendations are:
- The review, and the resulting report, are focused on the natural resource sector. The reforms proposed would apply to all engineers and geoscientists in BC, regardless of their area of practice; however, just 20% of our members work in the natural resource sector.
- The mandate, governance structure, and funding model for the proposed “Office of Professional Regulation and Oversight,” which would oversee the five associations subject to the review, including Engineers and Geoscientists BC, have not been defined.
- Proposed umbrella legislation that would standardize 10 elements of professional governance (including the size and composition of Council, appointment process for Council and key committees, clarifying public interest duties, and addressing codes of ethics, reporting duties, and whistleblower protection) is untested, and creates a one-size-fits-all approach that may not reflect the needs of individual regulators.
In addition to these overarching concerns, specific recommendations in the report would have a significant and potentially negative impact on Engineers and Geoscientists BC and the manner in which it operates. These include recommendations to:
- Potentially eliminate the role of members in selecting members of Council, replacing elections with appointments, something that would fundamentally compromise the principle of self-governance.
- Eliminate functions that support the sustainability of the professions of engineering and geoscience such as career and student outreach, awards and recognition and initiatives to promote diversity within the professions.
We remain concerned about the overall effectiveness of the proposed Office of Professional Regulation and Oversight. However, should government proceed with its establishment, we have made a number of recommendations during the course of our engagement with government to minimize the risks and unintended consequences of this policy and maximize the potential benefits of additional government focus and resources on professional regulation.
These recommendations include:
- The Office have an appropriate governance structure in place to ensure it is free of political influence;
- The Office’s mandate be focused on governance and not interfere with the day to day operations of regulators or professionals;
- Professionals continue to have a voice in self-regulation by electing members of Council;
- The organization continue to engage in activities that support and grow the profession, including diversity initiatives; and
- As a part of government and providing a function of government, the office should be funded by government.
We understand that legislation is being drafted, and anticipate that it will be tabled during the Fall sitting of the legislature.
While government appears to be on a course to implement this office and consolidate regulatory oversight into a single body through this legislation, officials have been receptive to the specific concerns and recommendations we have made.
Although the legislation may contain unanticipated elements when it is made public, at this point, we are cautiously optimistic that our recommendations will be reflected in the legislation when it is tabled.
If that occurs, and the risks are appropriately mitigated, when combined with the new regulatory tools the review recommends, such as providing us with the ability to regulate firms, the professional reliance review has the potential to provide a net benefit to regulatory oversight.
In the interim, we are maintaining our efforts to ensure any changes are effectively implemented, and are based on the proposed mandate, governance structure and anticipated working relationship with regulators.
Visit our Professional Reliance webpage for more information, updates, and answers to frequently asked questions.
Learn more about what members think about the proposed changes in the September/October edition of Innovation.
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