Risk assessment has role in measuring effective regulation

Ontario’s self-regulating professions would do well to develop risk identification metrics to measure their overall effectiveness in protecting the public interest.

The call for improved use of risk factors went forth at the Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation (CLEAR) symposium on May 9 in Toronto, Ontario. The event was hosted by the Ontario College of Teachers, one of the largest of Ontario’s regulated professions.

The theme of the 2018 Toronto regional symposium was “Measuring and reporting regulatory performance.”

PEO President David Brown, P.Eng., BDS, C.E.T., Interim Registrar Johnny Zuccon, P.Eng., FEC, and President-elect Nancy Hill, P.Eng., LLB, FEC, represented PEO at the symposium.

Brown, who has identified threats to self-regulation as a priority for his presidency, suggested resistance to change and intransigent council members could be a stumbling block in regulators’ efforts to measure their performance.

Richard Steinecke, LLB, was keynote speaker at the symposium. Steineke, whose Toronto law firm Steinecke Maciura LeBlanc has developed expertise in self-regulated professions, said it can be difficult to measure effectiveness of self-regulation without an understanding of the risks involved.

Whether it’s actual risk to the public or to the association’s reputation, there are few tools available to regulators to measure effectiveness, Steinecke said. Other than recording the number and types of complaints received, regulatory associations have only limited ways to analyze how they are doing.

Much of the debate at the CLEAR event focused on recent media reports of medical doctors either lying about their discipline history or being allowed to practise in Ontario under dubious accreditation checks. While these problems are associated with health-related associations such as the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, Steinecke said there are lessons there for all regulators.

He cited a recently released study by McMaster University Health Forum that examined modernization of oversight of the health workforce in Ontario. While the study focused on the province’s 26 health-related regulators, it recommended risk analysis as a key element in measuring regulatory effectiveness.

Others to address the CLEAR group were Lise Betteridge of the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers, Claude Balthazard of the Human Resources Professionals Association, David Collie of the Electrical Safety Authority, and Vincent Bowman and Maryan Gemus of the Ontario College of Pharmacists.

CLEAR is a US-based association advancing regulatory excellence across the professions. It hosts several regional conferences throughout North America, leading up to its annual educational conference and an international congress, this year scheduled for August 20 to 22 in Denver, Colorado.

CLEAR officials believe the primary objective of professional regulators is to serve and protect the public interest. Central to the public interest mandate is the mitigation and management of the risks associated with the practice of the profession or occupation. “Standards of qualification and practice are established, processes to deal with entry to practice complaints, discipline and enforcement are put in place, and members and the public are engaged via a range of communication channels,” CLEAR leaders say. “But how can the regulator know if it is doing a good job? How can it know if it is mitigating and managing risk to an appropriate level?”