President’s Special Report - August 2018 Update on the Professional Reliance Review (“PRR”)
As many Members may know, on June 28th, 2018 the Government of British Columbia released a report it had commissioned reviewing the professional reliance model. The Professional Reliance Review Report, known colloquially as the report or the Haddock report after its author, is a review of the Professional Reliance Model that has been used in our province’s natural resource sector since 2003. As defined by M. Haddock, “professional reliance takes different forms across the natural resource sector, but in general terms it is a regulatory model in which government sets the natural resource management objectives or results to be achieved, and professionals hired by proponents decide how those objectives or results will be met and government checks to ensure objectives have been achieved through compliance and enforcement” (Haddock, 2018, Professional Reliance Report, pp 6).
Although BCIA Council members are constrained by a government-mandated Non-Disclosure Agreement as explained below, the Haddock report is a public document and Council is able to comment on the contents of that report, as it appeared on the date of its release on June 28, 2018.
The report has 121 specific recommendations and numerous suggestions. An in-depth summary of the full report can be found in the Members section of our website (log-in). The report can be conceptually divided into three sections, each with associated recommendations and suggestions:
- a review of the professional reliance governance of the regulators,
- a regulatory review encompassing recommendations to improve legislation, natural resource information and Ministry staffing levels, increase public confidence and support Indigenous community engagement, and
- a review of specific natural resources regulatory regimes.
Recommendations 1 and 2 deal specifically with the professional regulators such as BCIA and have within them 32 sub-recommendations. BCIA council examined each of the sub-recommendations and confirmed general agreement with a majority of the sub-recommendations. There are however, some remaining areas of concern as follows:
- Government/Office of Professional Reliance (Office) authority to appoint a public administrator to take over duties of association if this is necessary in the public interest,
- Government/Office to administer rosters of accredited professionals who are not registrants of a professional organization,
- Amalgamate professional organizations,
- Government-directed development of a merits-based process for appointments to professional councils and committees.
In addition, BCIA council is able to support, generally speaking, the remaining 119 recommendations in the Haddock Report.
As noted in a previous report to Members, the Haddock report was completed on a very aggressive timeline, spanning only 8 months. The report is very comprehensive, addressing issues connected to the regulators, internal government processes and specific regulatory regimes. Only recommendations #1 & #2 pertain exclusively to the Regulators and it is unclear how the government will address the remaining recommendations (#3 to #121). BCIA firmly believes however that the public interest can only be protected if all recommendations of the Haddock report are considered and implemented as it may be appropriate.
In regards to recommendations 1 and 2 only, the government engaged the regulators in a process that may be referred to as consultative. This process was conducted over 6 weeks, ending on August 21st, 2018. Due to government-mandated Non-Disclosure Agreements covering the Executive Directors and Council members of all five associations, those discussions remain confidential. While we cannot report on any information provided by government officials we believe we can summarize the position taken by our representatives as follows:
- The proposed Office of Professional Regulation ( the “Office”) should be restricted to matters of governance only, as opposed to determining the operations of the regulating associations,
- The Office should have a degree of independence and protection from the government itself as many professionals are in fact employees of the government and as such the Office requires that independence to analyse and if/when necessary criticize the government ( an analogy would be the independence enjoyed by the Office of the Ombudsperson),
- The concept of professional self-regulation can and must be retained, in fact and in practice,
- The costs of the Office should be borne by the government and not the professionals themselves as there are numerous other professions in other sectors which are not required to pay for government oversight. To make the natural resource professionals do so would create a multi-tiered system of professionals within the province,
- Government must effectively address recommendations #3 to #121 in parallel with its efforts on recommendations #1 and #2,
- The regulators cannot be expected to enforce and maintain oversight of their respective professionals within BC unless each of the professions has Right to Practice.
By way of a quick review, in British Columbia, our profession currently has “Right to Title”, while most other Canadian provinces have both Right to Title and Right to Practice. The two concepts are complimentary and not necessarily mutually exclusive. Right to Title stipulates that persons conducting agrology work in British Columbia cannot use the P.Ag. or A.Ag. designation unless they are a member of BCIA. Right to Practice would refer to a statutory requirement that all persons conducting agrology work (as defined), whether or not they have a professional designation, be members of BCIA. Consequently persons currently conducting work within our areas of practice would be required to join BCIA and thus be subject to the accreditation, professional development, competency and discipline provisions of the institute. Without Right to Practice unregulated professionals could still offer services within BC which would be antithetical to the Government and BCIA’s shared goal of increasing public trust and protecting public interest.
In a motion carried unanimously at its August 8, 2018 meeting, BCIA council voted to request Right to Practice. The request that government “affirms the right to practice and reaffirms meaningful, in-fact and in-practice self-regulation to the profession of Agrology” was submitted to government and will be the subject of an upcoming meeting with our respective Minister.
Lastly, in an effort to ensure clear communications at all levels of government, BCIA in conjunction with the other four regulators in the natural resource sector was granted an audience with the Honourable Mr. George Heyman, Minister of Environment on August 21st at which we outlined our concerns. It is premature to determine what affect, if any, that meeting may have on the provisions of any upcoming legislative amendments. BCIA will continue to work with our partner regulating agencies, government, other partners and stakeholders to ensure we advance and protect the interest of the people of British Columbia.
Within the parameters of the non-disclosure agreements, we will keep you informed of developments in the PRR process. In the meanwhile, both myself and our Executive Director/Registrar JP Ellson are always available should you wish to discuss any of these matters.
Oana Enick, P.Ag.