New president to build on regulatory priorities of predecessor

It should be a seamless transition from one PEO president to the next if the comments at the regulator’s April 30 annual general meeting are an indication.

Thomas Chong, P.Eng., FEC, bowed out of his year of service as PEO president by recounting some of his efforts to improve PEO’s core regulatory functions. Meanwhile, incoming President George Comrie, P.Eng., FEC, in his welcoming remarks also pledged to focus his resources primarily on licensing and regulatory roles.

There was much talk of collaboration among all stakeholders as Chong gave way to Comrie, the latter now serving his second term as president of PEO. Comrie first headed PEO council in 2004-2005.

“Council supports the idea that in a self-regulating profession, like engineering, each member has a part to play in its regulation,” said Chong.

Comrie also seems to prefer the collaborative way. “You should know that Thomas [Chong] is a collaborative leader,” he said. “He and I have worked closely together this past year to build cohesion among our executive leadership as we try to address the important issues facing our profession. I plan to continue that collaboration in the coming year with Thomas, with our new president-elect, Bob Dony, and with our registrar, Gerard McDonald.”

As the first member of a visible minority to lead PEO, Chong emphasized diversity and inclusiveness as hallmarks of his presidential term. He described the regulator as an up and coming “inclusion champion” by drawing on the talent and resources of its diverse group of member-volunteers.

He later outlined some of the accomplishments of the past year, including progress with the PEO strategic plan, the rollout of the licensed engineering technologist (LET) designation, and the successful launch of the regulator’s new Aptify database. The latter occurred on April 1 after nearly three years of trial and testing.

Chong also cited the 10 per cent increase in funding to PEO’s 36 chapters as another high point of the past year.

A year of progress, Chong suggested, was blunted only by news late last year of the Ontario government’s decision to abandon plans to repeal the industrial exception, section 12(3)(a) of the Professional Engineers Act.

“The repeal is not red tape, as some have suggested, because it serves to protect the public interest and promotes safety. If repealing the industrial exception were to save just one life, wouldn’t it be worth it?” Chong asked. “I believe good engineers reduce costs, improve productivity and protect the health, safety and well-being of Ontarians. Engineering must be viewed as an investment for the future of any wealth-generating enterprise, not as a cost of production.”

The annual general meeting is also a forum for other members of the engineering community to celebrate the profession and discuss the value of self-regulation. Special guests at this year’s meeting were Digvir Jayas, PhD, P.Eng., FEC, then president, and Kim Allen, P.Eng., FEC, CEO, Engineers Canada; Karen Chan, P.Eng., then president and chair, and Sandro Perruzza, executive director, Ontario Society of Professional Engineers; Mike Wrinch, PhD, P.Eng., FEC, president, and Ann English, P.Eng., CEO and registrar, Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia; Steve Hrudey, PhD, P.Eng., FEC, president, Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta; Margaret Anne Hodges, P.Eng., FEC, president, and Dennis Paddock, P.Eng., FEC, then executive director and registrar, Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Saskatchewan; Len White, P.Eng., FEC, CEO and registrar, Engineers Nova Scotia; Bruce Potter, P.Eng., past chair, Consulting Engineers of Ontario; David Thomson, C.E.T., CEO, Ontario Association of Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologists; Alan Korell, P.Eng., FEC, executive director, Municipal Engineers Association; and Ramesh Subramanian, PhD, P.Eng., chair, Council of Ontario Deans of Engineering.

Several engineering interns and students also took part in the annual meeting, including Hannah Ehtemam, EIT, Parnian Jadidian, EIT, and Jake Lipohar, president of the Engineering Student Societies’ Council of Ontario.

Also bringing greetings to PEO members were Doris Chee, president, and Aina Budrevics, acting executive director, Ontario Association of Landscape Architects. This was their first PEO annual meeting. President Chong participated in the OALA’s conference in Niagara Falls April 1 to 2.

Each of the guests echoed the value of engineering community stakeholders all working to promote the value and visibility of professional self-regulation.

A key part of PEO annual meetings is discussion of submissions made by PEO members. There were four submissions for this year’s meeting. AGM submissions are not binding on PEO council, but are viewed by council as expressions of member concerns.

The assembly approved a submission by Peter Broad, P.Eng., FEC, that PEO continue discussions with the Ontario government and other parties to “ultimately eliminate” the industrial exception and align PEO with other engineering regulators. PEO is the only regulator in Canada with an industrial exception clause in its engineering act.

Members defeated a submission by Pappur Shankar, P.Eng., that PEO representatives on the board of Engineers Canada be elected as part of PEO council elections. The current custom is that council elects PEO’s Engineers Canada representatives.

Also defeated was a submission from Ray Linesman, P.Eng., FEC, calling on PEO’s proposed continuing professional development (CPD) program to be renamed “continuing professional education” to align with the wording of recommendation 1.24 of the Bélanger Commission report into the partial collapse of a rooftop parking deck at Elliot Lake’s Algo Centre Mall in 2012. The Linesman submission also called for a referendum of the board members of PEO’s 36 chapters, rather than a member-wide referendum, to approve mandatory components of any CPD program.

A fourth submission, also from Linesman, called on PEO to make results of its membership satisfaction survey known to members. The submission was withdrawn when it was understood that council will soon make public the results of the satisfaction survey.

This year’s annual meeting included a report from PEO Registrar Gerald McDonald, P.Eng., who presented financial and licence issuing statistics, and updated members on progress with the latest strategic plan. All AGM delegates received a copy of the registrar’s report in their registration packages.

As in 2015, this year’s event included a brief update from Annette Bergeron, P.Eng., FEC, on the regulator’s efforts to implement a continuing professional development/competence assurance program. Bergeron, chair of the recently created Continuing Professional Competence Program (CP)2 Task Force, said it’s important for the regulator to begin collecting more data on practitioners’ continuing education and post licensure efforts to remain current. “What the task force wants to do is to offer something new and different and not to repeat the mistakes of the past,” Bergeron said in her report.

The (CP)2 Task Force is expected to make its final report to council in November 2016.

Just prior to handing over the ceremonial gavel and chain of office to the incoming president, Chong saluted retiring members of the 2015-2016 council. Recognized for completing their council terms were David Adams, P.Eng., FEC (past president), Serge Robert, P.Eng. (Northern Region councillor), Len King, P.Eng. (Western Region councillor), Nick Colucci, P.Eng. (East Central Region councillor), Charles Kidd, P.Eng. (Eastern Region councillor), and Rebecca Huang, LLB (lieutenant governor-in-council appointee).

As his first duty as president, Comrie welcomed newly elected and returning council members: Thomas Chong, past president; Bob Dony, PhD, P.Eng., president-elect; Pat Quinn, P.Eng., FEC, vice president (elected); Christian Bellini, P.Eng., councillor-at-large; Michael Wesa, P.Eng., FEC, Northern Region councillor; Guy Boone, P.Eng., Eastern Region councillor; Noubar Takessian, P.Eng., FEC, East Central Region councillor; and Danny Chui, P.Eng., FEC, West Central Region councillor.

In his opening remarks, Comrie emphasized leadership development, succession planning, more training for volunteers, and stepped-up government relations work as keys to his term of office. He also cited the competence assurance program, emerging disciplines and exclusive scopes of practice as major items on the presidential radar screen.

“Capturing emerging disciplines or sub-disciplines of engineering practice, such as communications infrastructure engineering, is tremendously important,” Comrie said. “If we do not begin regulating these scopes of practice, which clearly fall within the definition of the practice of professional engineering in our act, while they are still emerging, we will be left behind and they will end up in the domain of unlicensed practice and be regulated by others.”

The new president believes he’s taking over on a high note, despite anticipating a heavy workload in the areas of licensure, complaints and discipline, enforcement, professional guidelines and standards.

“My hope is to maintain momentum and to build on the good work that has been accomplished this past year,” Comrie added. “When people suggest that our president’s one-year term is too short to accomplish much, I usually tell them that it is not the role of the president to impose his or her vision or agenda on the organization for a year. In my estimation, those who have tried that in the past have failed. Rather, I see the president as having three years to influence PEO’s leadership to adopt and work towards a shared vision.”