With a new government comes new opportunity

Without a doubt, engineers are leading change in our society, and PEO has an important role to play.

The day-to-day lives of people in Ontario and around the world are continuously reshaped by technological advancements that would not be possible without the leading-edge skills of engineers.

The engineering community wields transformative power every day.

Being at the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution means engineers are inventing new work that was unimaginable in the past—and that has major implications for self-regulation of the profession.

PEO President David Brown, P.Eng., BDS, C.E.T., talked about this change at PEO’s annual general meeting earlier this year: “Engineering, as it is defined under our act, is being carried out all around us and will continue to expand. Yet we are almost powerless to put a rope around it and regulate it.”

To stay relevant in a time of disruption, many believe PEO must adapt. “The status quo is no longer acceptable for a regulator,” Brown said, “and for us to stick our collective heads in the sand and hope for the best is far from a prudent course of action.”

One challenge Brown sees for PEO Council is to ensure its high professional standards apply to a rapidly expanding array of people applying their engineering skills. “I believe we are at a crossroads where we need to decide if we want to disrupt ourselves from within, while we still have that opportunity, or be disrupted externally, without having a choice,” he said. “The evidence shows this is happening around us and in this province.”

An important partner for PEO in this rapidly changing environment is the new class of Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs), who were elected in June.

Although PEO and its Government Liaison Program (GLP) have consistently worked hard to build relationships with MPPs for over a decade, turnover in the legislature means efforts need to be renewed after each election. There are over 70 first-time MPPs serving at Queen’s Park. Now is the time for PEO to reach out to these important elected officials because many may not be aware of the engineering profession’s self-regulating mandate.

PEO’s GLP has three very clear goals, which have been in place since 2005:

  1.  To facilitate strong, ongoing relationships between chapter members and their local MPPs;
  2.  To actively monitor and take action on policy proposals and upcoming legislation that could affect PEO and the Professional Engineers Act; and
  3.  To provide communications and policy support to express PEO policy positions to government policy-makers.

Of the three engineers who ran for legislature in this past provincial election, only one engineer—Progressive Conservative MPP Jim McDonell, P.Eng., MPP (Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry)—was successful. The legislature is short of people who understand the engineering profession and share its analytical mindset, which is needed more than ever given the greater technological issues we face and on which the government must make decisions.

This puts more pressure on PEO to deliver a clear message to MPPs about the value professional engineers bring to our province under a regime of self-regulation in the public interest.

For PEO to be successful, this must be done systematically, riding by riding. Every MPP, regardless of party, has a role that can be used to influence both public opinion and decision making.

PEO, with its robust 36-chapter structure and a Council that includes lieutenant-governor appointees, is well positioned to make the case for the profession with all legislators at Queen’s Park and, more importantly, right at home in their communities.

“This new government provides PEO with a new opportunity to demonstrate how they can help the government protect the public interest,” says PEO Manager of Government Liaison Programs Jeannette Chau, P.Eng. “If we ever had a chance to show our role as a robust regulator and a partner of the government and have our voice heard, now is the time.”

For more information on the PEO’s GLP, contact Jeannette Chau, P.Eng., at jchau@peo.on.ca.

Howard Brown is the president of Brown & Cohen Communications & Public Affairs and PEO’s government relations consultant.