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Time permitting: new provincial act requires city to belly up to permitting bar

The City of Nelson is moving ahead with the drafting of a new policy to govern its own engineers and geoscientists as an organization engaged in engineering and geoscience.

A re-writing of a provincial act has forced the city to seek permitting of its own.

The City of Nelson is moving ahead with the drafting of a new policy to govern its own engineers and geoscientists — that require a permit to practice — as an organization engaged in engineering and geoscience.

Along with the permit the city needs a professional practice management plan, in addition to the policy, said Nelson Hydro general manager Scott Spencer in his presentation to city council on the matter.

The city has already obtained an Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia (EGBC) permit in order to comply, he pointed out.

“But we felt it good to set out a policy around commitment and guidance to meet legislative obligations,” Spencer said, adding that the policy would outline the basics of maintaining the permit to practice.

The City of Nelson employs professional registrants belonging to the EGBC. EGBC requires all organizations engaged in the profession of Engineering and Geoscience to meet obligations under the Professional Governance Act (PGA).

While not specifically required under the PGA, Spencer felt that having a policy in place that clearly articulated the city’s commitment to meeting the EMBC standards for professional practice was the best practice.

“The proposed policy is intended to demonstrate conformance to the legislated obligations under the PGA,” he explained. “The Permit to Practice Management Plan (PPMP) references other city policies that align or overlap the EGBC expectations around ethics, quality management and continuing education and competency.”

Coun. Janice Morrison wondered if the City of Nelson owned the permit to practice, or was it needed by those who registered to practice their trade.

Prior to this municipal organizations were not required to hold a permit to practice, Spencer explained. It was common, however, in most private organizations across Canada to have and hold a permit to practice.

“Will it be double stamped now?” asked Morrison, by the engineer and the city.

No physical stamp was required now as an organization, replied Spencer.

“They require us to have a professional practice management plan that obligates us as an organization to support the professional registrants through upholding ethics, professional development, maintaining proper records, field checks and other good quality management practices,” he said. “This permit to practice covers those professionals employed by the City of Nelson, and any contractor who was working … solely for us.”

Making the change

On Feb. 5, 2021, the Professional Governance Act (PGA) came into force and replaced the Engineers and Geoscientists Act.

The PGA defines EGBC’s mandate and governing authority, said Spencer in his report, with the PGA also outlining the obligations and standards that all registrants under the PGA must meet.

“The regulations further define the obligations and standards set out in the PGA,” he said. “EGBC required all organizations engaged in the practice of professional engineering or geoscience to register by September 2021 and firms were given one year to align their practices to the new standards.”

fully meet the standards set by EGBC as articulated in the PPMP. It is unclear at this point if these will be material. No additional budget has been allocated at this time. There are no revenue impacts to implementation of this policy.