In fall 2018, the Honourable George Heyman, M.L.A., British Columbia’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, introduced in the House the Professional Governance Act—proposed legislation that seeks to modify governance of professionals who work in British Columbia’s natural resource sector. Among its provisions, the act aims to increase government oversight for regulatory bodies by establishing a statutory Office of the Superintendent of Professional Governance in the Ministry of Attorney General.
In response, Engineers Canada recently sent a letter to Heyman outlining both positives and areas of concern with the proposed legislation, Bill 49.
The letter expresses that the bill is positive in its provisions to require bylaws on mandatory continuing professional development requirements for registrants, to require registrants to report matters posing significant harm to the environment or to the health and safety of the public, to protect whistle-blowers, and to enhance the decision-making authority of Council.
However, Engineers Canada, along with Engineers and Geoscientists BC, have expressed major concerns with other areas of the current proposed legislation:
- Engineers Canada is concerned that applying a general solution to diverse regulators of vastly different sizes, complexities, and resources across the province is not practical. The legislation proposed in Bill 49 attempts to align British Columbia’s engineering regulatory governance with other dissimilar professions, such as that of biologists and agrologists. This may have the unintended consequence of putting BC engineers out of step with their counterparts across Canada, causing potential issues with mobility and public safety.
- Under Section 60 of Bill 49, Engineers Canada believes that requiring registrants to submit declarations of competence and conflict of interest to the regulatory bodies would be impractical to administer. Logistically, given the large number of practising registrants, the number of projects that would require such declarations would be unmanageable. Engineers Canada supports the view that it would remain a challenge for regulatory bodies to collect, manage, and communicate this information even if this general requirement were reduced so that it was only applicable to the 20 percent of Engineers and Geoscientists BC registrants working in the natural resources sector. It would also be difficult to implement and manage this requirement for out of province and offshore work. Moreover, Section 60 of Bill 49 is redundant as Engineers and Geoscientists BC’s code of ethics already covers conflict of interest and competence issues.
- Engineers Canada supports Engineers and Geoscientists BC’s view that Bill 49 is very broad enabling legislation and relies too heavily on regulations. This increases government representatives’ authority to prescribe application and enforcement requirements and removes public debate and transparency from the legislative decision-making process.
- The proposed superintendent of professional governance in Part 2 of Bill 49 has broad sweeping powers that are well beyond governance matters. Engineers Canada supports Engineers and Geoscientists BC’s view that this would affect their ability to regulate the engineering profession effectively and impose unnecessary administrative burden.
The letter goes on to point out that “Engineers Canada feels strongly that the provisions included in Bill 49 do not enhance the regulator’s role in protecting the public.”
Annette Bergeron, Engineers Canada President says, “Engineering regulators have been entrusted by provincial and territorial governments to set high professional and ethical standards, establish codes of conduct, and administer regulatory processes and standards of practice to ensure the protection of the public.”
Based on these concerns, the letter ultimately expresses agreement with Engineers and Geoscientists BC, “that the public would be better served by amendments to the existing engineering act rather than the introduction of a new act.”
All members of the public have the opportunity to provide feedback on this proposed legislation until January 31, 2019 at 4:00 p.m.