state of emergency

B.C. Professional Reliance Review raises concerns

AIBC says recommendations under the review could impact architects
Wednesday, September 5, 2018
by Cheryl Mah

Regulated professions in the province of British Columbia are under intense scrutiny right now by the government, according to Mark Vernon, chief executive officer, Architectural Institute of British Columbia (AIBC).

The British Columbia government undertook a review of the province’s professional reliance model last fall to ensure the highest professional, technical and ethical standards are being applied to resource management in B.C.

The B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change released its final report on the review of professional reliance in the natural resource sector in June 2018. The review looked at five professional regulators involved in upholding the public interest in the natural resource sector which included the Engineers and Geoscientist BC, regulators of agrology, applied science technology, applied biology and professional forestry.

The report will not only affect these five professions, but could impact other self-regulated professions in the province such as AIBC.

The profession of architecture is regulated in Canada by provincial and territorial bodies that set the qualifications for entry, set the standards to which members must adhere and oversee the conduct of members.

These are the three pillars of regulation which are common in all regulated professions, not just architecture, said Vernon.

“Architects throughout Canada – those who are registered – have a privilege, and with that comes an obligation within the confines of the Architects Act and the bylaws within each jurisdiction,” said Vernon, going on to provide an overview of AIBC’s mandate and how the institute carries out the three pillars and more. He stressed the institute’s primary duty is to the public.

Vernon was a speaker at the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s (RAIC) national forum held in Vancouver. The forum was the first in a series with RAIC travelling to several stops across Canada to hear from members of the architectural community.

In discussing the report, Vernon said while it contains some positive recommendations such as improving ministry staffing levels and resources, there are two proposed major changes to professional regulation that are concerning.

“The five regulators underwent a detailed review and examination by government which listed 121 recommendations in the final report,” noted Vernon. “You’ll say what does this have to do with architects? There are two recommendations that have impact on all regulated professions within B.C.”

The first is to establish an Office of Professional Regulation and Oversight, and the second is to legislate critical elements of professional governance.

“This includes up to 50 per cent of council should be public representatives,” explained Vernon, “not sure how this will be achieved…by increasing the number of public representatives on existing councils or reducing the number of non-public representatives.”

In addition, the legislation would specify new rules for composition of councils and committees.

“The second key item of concern is that at least 50 per cent of council should be appointed from members in the register. In other words, no more elections. The government would decide which of the members will serve on council,” said Vernon, adding the report also proposes that someone other than the professional regulator should assume the advocacy role.

Other industry associations as well as the Business Council of B.C. have expressed similar concerns.

The government is currently undertaking further consultations, with new legislation expected to be passed this fall and implementation by next year.

Read the final report.

Cheryl Mah is managing editor of Design Quarterly.

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