Self-regulatory professional bodies in the province and across the country are under increasing political, public and media scrutiny. Attention has manifested in the form of reviews, audits and new legislation.
Within this context, it is clear that changes to the regulatory landscape and how it will affect the profession of architecture in B.C. will be an area of focus during my term as president and for this year’s council.
The catalyst in B.C. was the Professional Reliance Review. Spearheaded by the provincial government, the Review was tasked with making recommendations that would “ensure that the highest professional, technical and ethical standards are being applied to resource development in British Columbia”.
The ensuing report ushered in the introduction of the Professional Governance Act which received royal assent in November 2018. The new legislation repealed and replaced the statutory law of five natural resource regulators:
- Applied Science Technologists & Technicians of B.C. (Applied Science Technologists and Technicians Act);
- Association of B.C. Forest Professionals (Foresters Act);
- B.C. Institute of Agrologists (Agrologists Act);
- College of Applied Biology (College of Applied Biology Act); and
- Engineers and Geoscientists of B.C. (Engineers and Geoscientists Act).
Supplementary regulation, unique to each of the five sectors, is in the process of being introduced, and a superintendent to oversee the five professions was recently hired.
Several months ago, the College of Dental Surgeons of B.C. addressed a comprehensive audit of their governance and regulatory performance with an 81-page Action Plan addressing concerns. Meanwhile, the BC Health Professions Act, which in 1996 united a number of health regulators under one Act including the aforementioned College, is currently poised for review.
Outside of B.C., l’Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec, the self-regulatory body for engineers, was placed under the trusteeship of the provincial government for two years until it could demonstrate – which it did – its ability to regulate in the public interest. Last month, Quebec’s Minister of Justice introduced a lengthy bill to further modernize professional regulation, including redefining the practice of the profession of architecture and the profession’s “reserved activities”. In Ontario, a number of changes to the Regulated Health Professions Actcame into effect as part of the implementation of the Protecting Patients Act.
The intense spotlight on regulated professions mixed with political might has translated into sweeping changes. The following recurring themes are emerging:
- Additional government oversight in the form of meta-regulators with an overseeing superintendent;
- Greater public representation on smaller boards with competency-based nomination processes;
- Bylaws approved by boards and not registrants;
- Use of the term “registrant” in lieu of “member”;
- Mandatory professional development with non-compliance handled as an administrative matter; and
- Clearly articulated “duties and responsibilities” sections which identify advocacy as outside of a regulator’s scope, and the explicit mandate of regulating in the public interest.
Also, of note is the speed at which change is happening. Government is moving quickly. The Professional Governance Act, which is close to 100 pages of new legislation, moved through the legislature in four weeks.
How does the highest enactment of the profession of architecture–the Architects Act –hold up? Last fundamentally changed in the 1950s, the Act does not take into account modern governance and practice principles and is due for an upgrade.
For many years, the AIBC has sought legislative change in the public interest, and continues to engage with the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, as they review their legislative priorities and requests for legislation. Given the considerable movement in self-regulation, we remain hopeful that the Architects Act will see its way to modernization.
Now more than ever self-regulatory bodies are under the microscope and have an opportunity to speak to their public-protection mandates.
Unlike provincial legislation which is amended, repealed or replaced at the sole discretion of government, the AIBC has an opportunity to demonstrate leadership through attention to the regulatory authority under its purview: documents such as Bylaws, Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, and Bulletins. Bedrock principles of regulation are found here and it is the Institute’s responsibility to ensure this material adheres to present-day standards.
Ultimately, the public is at the core of self-regulation.
The AIBC focuses its fiduciary duty to the public on effective governance and day-to-day operations. To this end, it sets, maintains and enforces entry, ethics and practice standards and keeps pace with modern governance principles.
But what about AIBC registrants? How do you deliver on the public-interest mandate?
As registrants, you meet high competency standards through rigorous education, examination and expertise. As volunteers who sit on Institute committees, you put the public’s interest first when discussing agenda items. As practitioners, you comply with the Architects Act and other public-protection enactments such as the B.C. Building Code, in addition to related AIBC regulation.
Self-regulatory public bodies are incorporated under provincial legislation and serve in the public interest. It bears repeating that the Architects Act is not owned by the Institute, but rather by the public through the legislature. Through statutory power, the AIBC is mandated to enforce the Architects Act and conduct its affairs accordingly.
With all this in mind, it is worth recalling the architect’s declaration: “I promise now that my professional conduct as it concerns the community, my work, and my fellow architects will be governed by the ethics and the tradition of this honourable and learned profession, in the public interest.”
Indeed, it is heartening to see in the present moment a concerned interest on the part of many of the value of professionals and our role in working for the public good.
Ian R. McDonald Architect AIBC