The NDP Government has repealed the Engineers and Geoscientists Act, together with Agrologists Act, the Applied Science Technologists and Technicians Act, the College of Applied Biology Act, and the Foresters Act, replacing those pieces of legislation with one over-arching Act entitled the Professional Governance Act. This Act creates a new office called the Office of the Superintendent of Professional Governance.
While ostensibly EGBC and the other regulatory authorities will continue to play the role they have played previously, they will now be subject to review by a public sector entity which is able to second guess decisions and take independent action without engaging the regulatory authority. For instance, the superintendent may, if it considers it necessary or advisable to do so, disallow a bylaw passed by the regulatory body and investigate and order audits into virtually every aspect of a regulatory body’s activities.
ACEC-BC has concerns regarding the structure and mandate of the new entity.
In general, the new regime adds uncertainty and duplication to the regulatory environment in which professionals operate. This in turn could be seen by potential investors as a risk that would deter investment in BC.
As an example of increasing red tape, the Act stipulates that when an engineer is engaged to provide services that are within the registrant's regulated practice, which could be anything from a review of house foundation to designing tailings dams or other complex structures, they would be required to file “within a prescribed time period and in the prescribed form”, a competence declaration as well as a conflict of interest declaration. When one considers the enormous amount of work done by BC’s engineers and other professionals, this is going to result in mind-numbing regulatory overload.
Another concern is that the Cabinet can make regulations dealing with “ethical principles” that the council of a regulatory body must establish in a code of ethics for registrants. This has the real potential of a future governments determining, for instance, that the design, construction and operation of a pipeline is against the public interest and prohibiting engineers from such activities.
The new Act states that a minister responsible for a relevant enactment, such as the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources or the Minister of Forests, may designate a registrant (an individual) to be a roster member (or not). The government would determine the qualifications or other criteria required for designation as a roster member. Only roster members would be allowed to undertake work under the purview of those Ministries. This would allow the government to establish criteria outside existing professional designations. In addition, it may lead to a scenario whereby proponents of projects would only be able to select professionals from the roster, restricting opportunities to a select, privileged number of professionals. It is not clear how the rosters would apply to corporate registrants.
ACEC-BC believes the new Act will create a regulatory environment that is burdensome and ineffective. While the stated intent of the legislation was to address concerns regarding the use of professional reliance in the resource sector, the broad scope of the legislation, well beyond the resource sector, and the intrusive nature of the regulations, as well as the extraordinary ability of Cabinet, the Minister and the Superintendent to make regulations and orders, will serve to raise concerns on the part of investors and industry alike.
We have asked that our organization be consulted extensively in the process of drafting the regulations that will be required under this Act to ensure it is effective and truly improve the state of the profession without creating undue complications and uncertainty.