BY JIM BECKETT, P.ENG.
In accepting his honorary life membership, now Past-President Gordon Williams, P.Geol., said leading this great Association is like running in a long-distance relay. One President passes the baton to the next. Accomplishments aren’t measured in one-year stints — or 100-metre dashes — but are developed and built upon across all of the presidencies.
I hope Dr. Williams doesn’t mind, but I’m borrowing the metaphor. I officially grabbed the baton from him at the APEGGA Annual General Meeting on April 25. Believe me, I am already running.
One of the first orders of business for me, the Executive Committee and the new Council was a strategic retreat. We gathered with managers and directors to hash through a number of ongoing and immediate challenges, with an eye on our strategic approach for the next 10 years. I’ll touch on these challenges in this column, but will provide greater detail and more about the resulting APEGGA Strategic Plan in a later column.
Despite all the hard work that lies ahead, one lesson I hear loud and clear from Dr. Williams is that important things can and often do take time. The work of one President blends into the work of his or her successor. Something characterized as close to a final success during one term usually has roots that go back to one, two, three or more predecessors.
A perfect example is the regulatory model known as One Act Two Associations. This new level of cooperation between ASET and APEGGA brings technologists and their association into the regulatory fold, through the new Professional Technologist, or P.Tech., designation. Our members approved the needed regulatory amendments for 1A2A during last month’s Annual General Meeting, and it’s very likely that the first P.Tech. licence will be issued during my term as your leader.
As nice as it would be to take the credit for One Act Two Associations, I can’t do that. Its roots go back at least three presidencies, and even that timeline doesn’t take into account the years and years of groundwork and building of goodwill it took to bring ASET and APEGGA to the table in a meaningful way.
Similarly, Dr. Williams’ presidency included great advances on the geoscience front. Our Board of Examiners approved knowledge and experience requirements developed by the Canadian Geoscience Standards Board for geoscience self-regulatory organizations across the country. This is a major step towards streamlining licensure of geologists and geophysicists.
Dr. Williams also helped shepherd the creation of a single geoscience designation. Approval at the Annual General Meeting now moves a number of amendments along to the Alberta Government for the P.Geo. designation, which will bring APEGGA in line with other regulators.
It also needs to be said that Dr. Williams’ credibility and respect in the geoscience community have given us a greater profile there. Improving licensure rates among geoscientists is our goal, and when the statistics start moving in that direction, much of the credit will have to go back to Dr. Williams.
So, what are the other issues handed off to me that need special attention during my year at the helm? In other words, what are my baton issues?
This appears to be the big one. Governments have made it clear that complete mobility between regulators in Canada is an absolute must. Our orders come in the form of two agreements — the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement, which Alberta and B.C. have signed, and the national Agreement on Internal Trade, which has the support of all the premiers and the Prime Minister.
APEGGA and other Canadian engineering and geoscience regulators already have virtual mobility. We told government that last year, but the response we got is that a 99.5 per cent acceptance rate of transferring Canadian professionals is not good enough.
We did what we could. Now, we must accept this new reality and make it work in the best interests of members and, most importantly, the public.
It is incumbent upon APEGGA and the sister associations across Canada to make their licensure systems as thorough as possible, from one jurisdiction to the next, from the smallest to the largest. This is essential, because we are losing much of our ability to be the checks and balances of each other.
Some aspects of each system will need to be harmonized. Some differences, however, are only that — differences, with no baggage attached. They don’t represent deficiencies in one system and sufficiencies in others. It’s up to your Association and the others to figure out what needs to be harmonized and what doesn’t.
We want to prevent one or more jurisdictions from being used as paths of least resistance, allowing transferees into Alberta that APEGGA would traditionally consider under-qualified.
The common licensure denominator cannot be so low it jeopardizes the public. That’s the challenge we face, and meeting it requires a new level of cooperation between Canadian engineering and geoscience self-regulating organizations.
Many of you will already know of the extra effort we made to build voter participation in the 2009 APEGGA election. That work and your response appear to have succeeded. The percentage of eligible voters increased to 17.3 per cent this year, compared with 9.9 per cent the year before.
Is that good enough? That’s a question that’s tricky to answer. Personally, I’d like more of our membership to care more about the business of their Association, and more often. One reflection of how much members care is the vote.
We do know that we’re not alone. Other self-regulating associations experience similar voting percentages, other than when matters of widespread controversy or concern are on the ballot.
The voter turnout can be looked at, too, as statement of confidence. Members are content with the job we’re doing, and would just as soon continue building their careers and living their lives without paying much attention to APEGGA.
The one thing we must always be wary of, however, is that our right of self-regulation is a privilege we earn. We must continue to earn it, from day to day and president to president, and we may, at some point, have to defend it.
I question whether 17.3 per cent is as strong a demonstration of member support as we can and should show. I’m also aware, however, that the number is only a symptom. It’s our job to make the Association as relevant as possible to as many members as possible. The better job we do of that, the more of our members will take the time to vote.
Our New Council
Any successes this Association enjoys, this year or in the years to come, result from the work of no one person, your President included. I’ve had the chance to interact now with our new Council, and I am certain that the direction, support — and the debate — Council offers will inspire and motivate me.
As any relay racer knows, the hand-off is critical. It requires preparation, and it requires that one runner is already up to speed when the baton is passed.
APEGGA’s system of election creates that transition. I became President-Elect in 2008, allowing me to prepare for this role. Dr. Williams remains on the executive committee for one year.
And my replacement, President-Elect Kim Farwell, P.Eng., is already warming up for her leg of the race. She, along with Vice-President Dick Walters, P.Eng., also sits on the Executive Committee.
I am surrounded by competent, dedicated people, both elected and, as represented by Executive Director & Registrar Neil Windsor, P.Eng., staff. I look forward to a great year working with them all.
The other ingredient is you. Please do contact me with your questions and concerns at email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you soon.