The Advisory Task Force on Corporate Practice of the Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia (EGBC) Council recently reported that it supports a recommendation that the association extend its regulatory authority to include corporate practice.
"Right now in B.C., only the individual practitioner is regulated by the association," said Peter Mitchell, EGBC's director of professional practice, standards and development.
"We can't meet our primary mandate of protecting the public interest if we don't also regulate the organizations that employ the engineers and geoscientists. Employers should be required to ensure their employees are living up to their professional obligations."
All of EGBC's provincial counterparts – except B.C. and Quebec – regulate engineering and geoscientific organizations.
EGBC, the business name of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of the Province of British Columbia (APEGBC), regulates and governs these professions.
The association was set up in 1920 to protect the public interest by setting and maintaining high academic, experience, and professional practice standards for its members, who now number 34,000.
Individuals licensed by EGBC are the only ones who are legally permitted to undertake and assume responsibility for engineering and geoscience projects in BC.
The B.C. construction industry will benefit from an extension of EGBC's regulatory authority because it will lead to better risk management, Mitchell says.
There are other benefits, according to the task force. Corporate regulation could enhance protection of the public interest and the environment.
In addition, it could increase government and public confidence in the profession's self-regulatory system.
The corporate practice advisory task force was asked to guide consultation and gather member and stakeholder feedback to advise Council on two related questions.
First, whether EGBC should pursue regulatory authority over corporate practice as a means to improve public protection.
And, second, which entities, if any, should be subject to the association's regulatory oversight.
Member and stakeholder consultation took place in two stages in the second half of 2016.
A number of stakeholders took part in the consultations, including the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, BC Hydro and The Association of Consulting Engineering Companies British Columbia (ACEC-BC).
ACEC-BC represents over 80 of B.C.'s consulting engineering companies that provide engineering and other technology-based services to the public and private sectors.
In a detailed submission to the EGBC task force, ACEC-BC said it wants to ensure there is "a level playing field" for all the organizations in B.C. that offer engineering and geoscientific services – many of which are not represented by the association.
ACEC-BC says these organizations include, in addition to consulting engineers, a large and diversified assortment of entities.
They include management consultants, law firms, in-house engineering groups of private and public sector resource companies, utilities, government-funded engineering and geoscience entities, provincial government agencies, municipalities and contractors.
ACEC-BC says the current Engineers and Geoscientists Act and the bylaws of EGBC should be amended in order to make it compulsory for all organizations that provide engineering and geoscientific services to first obtain a Certificate of Authorization (CoA).
"The concept of the CoA is still in the formative stage, and the details need to be worked out carefully first," said Keith Sashaw, president and CEO of ACEC-BC.
In its submission, ACEC-BC wrote, "As many corporate entities and comparable private and public sector bodies procure the bulk of their engineering work by engaging consulting engineering firms, the introduction of a regulatory regime for only the consulting industry (emphasis added) would unduly disadvantage that particular group.
"If the parameters of such a regime are to function effectively as a regulatory measure, ACEC-BC believes that both the Act and Bylaws must be clarified so that all entities that employ professional engineers be regulated."
ACEC-BC concluded its submission, "after careful consideration of the aforementioned issues and potential benefits to both the industry and the interests of the public," by recommending that EGBC move to regulate engineering and geoscience organizations in British Columbia.
An EGBC task force will be looking into which types of corporate practices should be regulated and will announce its recommendations in the summer of 2018.
The next stage after that will be for the task force to recommend a business plan to implement its recommendations.