On July 14, the B.C. government advised AIBC that the profession of architecture will be moving under the Professional Governance Act (PGA).
This news will generate many questions, from what this change means for the profession, to potential impacts on practice, and implications for the Institute’s governance. Currently, there is limited information and detail available about the transition.
What we do know is that the current Architects Act is woefully outdated, and the government has worked on amendments or replacing that Act for many years. It appears the time has come for the architectural profession to receive modern self-regulating legislation. As of today, the PGA is the newest professional regulation legislation in British Columbia.
A dedicated PGA webpage contains information about the transition, including an overview, Frequently Asked Questions, and a status update/next steps section. The webpage will be updated on a regular basis to keep registrants informed as we progress through the transition. Registrants may also be interested in visiting the website of the Office of the Superintendent of Professional Governance (OSPG), which outlines key components of the Office, including the Professional Governance Act and role of the Superintendent, as well as an OSPG Questions and Answers section.
In terms of timing, this transition will not be a sudden upheaval. It is expected to take several years for all AIBC regulations and documents (such as Bylaws, Council Rules, Bulletins, and so forth) to be updated and aligned with the new legislation.
As a first step, and as indicated in the letter, it appears the AIBC will be moving ministries in fall 2020. We have at least a year to prepare for the transition to the PGA, meaning there will be no changes implemented to regulatory documents or for architectural practice until the end of 2021, or early 2022.
We have very high expectations of the Attorney General and the OSPG as partners in professional regulation, and expect this to be a smooth and orderly transition. We believe that the new Ministry and the specialized office will allow the AIBC and the profession to be more nimble in responding to regulatory challenges and in getting attention at the provincial government level.
It is important to observe that over the past several years, there has been an increased focus on regulated professions – not only in British Columbia, but across the country and across disciplines. In 2019, we witnessed sweeping changes throughout the regulatory landscape in the province with several reviews, audits, reports, and new legislation. The PGA is not new to the AIBC – we have been closely monitoring the situation and providing registrants with updates since the publishing of the Professional Reliance Report back in June 2018, and introduction of the Professional Governance Act in November of 2018.
As a reminder, Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia, as well as four other regulators in the natural resources and built environment sector professions, are already under the PGA. We will be collaborating closely with them and the OSPG throughout this transition. With both the AIBC and EGBC under the same overarching umbrella legislation, we anticipate greater consistency in the built environment, which is of benefit to everyone – registrants, regulators, and ultimately, the public.
The AIBC has sought to modernize the Architects Act for many years, and has been actively engaged with the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training to address its deficiencies. Although amendments to the Architects Act now won’t be made, I would like to draw particular attention to a line in the government’s letter: that the PGA contains all the items that were being considered as amendments to the Architects Act.
While this may not have been what we expected in terms of addressing the deficiencies of the Act, or as the conclusion to the Institute’s centenary year, there are many positives that come from this transition, as it better aligns the profession with current societal and governmental expectations and standards – something the Institute has been trying to accomplish for years.
Ian R. McDonald is president of the AIBC council and a partner at Carscadden Stokes McDonald.