BC Government Review of Professional Reliance 
What is Professional Reliance?
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BC Government Review of Professional Reliance

Current Status

The Good and the Bad in Bill 49

A review of Bill 49, the proposed Professional Governance Act, by the ABCFP’s legal counsel and senior staff, has identified number of provisions we believe are positive and will strengthen the role and ability of professional regulators under the Act, should it pass.

At the same time, we have also identified areas of concern and a number of drafting errors and unclear policy provisions. Please download and review the summary of areas which we support along with a list of drafting errors and ambiguous and unclear policy statements.

We remain committed to working with government to ensure that Bill 49, should it pass and become law, it functions as effectively as possible in implementation, despite our reservations about the necessity of a new Act and the creation of the Office of the Superintendent of Professional Governance.


Proposed Professional Governance Act Passes Second Reading, Government Releases Intention Paper

The BC government is seeking public feedback on a Regulations Intentions Paper related to Bill 49, the proposed Professional Governance Act, tabled in the legislature on October 22 and which passed second reading October 30 by a 43 to 38 vote.

The intentions paper is divided into two parts. Part One describes the recently introduced Bill 49, the Professional Governance Act, with the main purpose being to explain how the governance of registered professionals that operate in the natural resource sector will change with the passing of the Act. Part Two describes topics that government is seeking feedback on to help inform the development of future policy and regulations.

According to the paper, the government is seeking feedback on three key policy areas for which it is developing regulations.

  1. Practice rights of professions: what is required to support professions governed under the Act to operate with both ‘reserved titles’ and ‘reserved practices’? What considerations should guide the process of defining reserved practices for the professions?
  2. Regulation of firms: what is required to support professions governed under the Act to regulate firms? What general and profession-specific considerations should this framework take into account?
  3. Competency declarations and conflict of interest declarations: When and how should declarations be required and what should be considered to ensure this process is efficient and effective?

Download the Intentions paper.

The government explicitly states that it is seeking comment from registered professionals as well as the public, Indigenous nations, and other stakeholders.

Comment can be made through the government’s public engagement website.

Deadline for comment is January 31, 2019 at 4:00 pm.

Go directly to the government feedback form for Regulations Intentions Paper consequent to the proposed Professional Governance Act.


Government Tables Professional Governance Act

The BC government on October 22, 2018, tabled the Professional Governance Act, proposed legislation that would establish the office of the superintendent of professional governance as well as change other elements of professional governance affecting the Association of BC Forest Professionals and four other professions (engineers and geoscientists; biologists; agrologists; applied science technologists and technicians).

The proposed legislation is based on Recommendations 1 and 2 from the government’s Professional Reliance Report, authored by Mark Haddock, and released in June of this year. Shortly afterwards, the government indicated its intention to bring forward and table legislation in the fall. That precipitated nearly 50 hours of meetings between the five professional associations and the government throughout the summer as we tried to clarify the government’s goals and express potential impacts the changes would have on our governance structure and operations.

According to a government news release, the legislation, if approved, will bring government oversight of the five qualified-person regulators under the office and set consistent governance standards across the professions, including:

  • increasing public representation and instituting a merit-based nomination process for councils of professional regulators;
  • setting common ethical principles;
  • requiring competency and conflict of interest declarations from professionals;
  • strengthening professionals’ duty to report unethical conduct of other professionals;
  • providing whistle blower protections to those who report;
  • enabling practice rights to all five regulated professions; and
  • enabling professional regulators to regulate firms.

Critically, this Act only affects professional governance and makes no changes to policies that regulate how the environment and land base are managed.

Next Steps

The ABCFP will take time to review the legislation to determine if there are any changes to the profession’s rights and responsibilities, assess implementation considerations in light of transition provisions. We will keep you informed as this work progresses.

The Act requires a second and third reading in the legislature before it may receive Royal Assent and take force. The timing for this has not been specified.

Related Documents

Read the government news release.


Summer Meetings With Government

Throughout the summer, ABCFP senior staff and members of Council, along with the other five natural resource professional associations, met with Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy representatives to discuss the ministry’s desire to move forward with the first two recommendations contained in the report on its review of professional reliance in BC’s natural resource sector.

Starting five business days after the June release of the Professional Reliance report, the ABCFP along with the other resource professions engaged in nearly 50 hours of meetings with government throughout July, August and September. Some of the recommended changes in the report would improve our ability to regulate, while some other changes would have little effect on the forestry profession because the ABCFP may already have an existing similar provision. But some changes had a strong potential to detrimentally affect how the forestry profession functions. With limited time to discuss such a broad suite of major changes, the government discussions focused on the areas of greatest concern.

When it became explicitly clear the government was steadfast in its position to proceed with legislation and a supporting office, efforts shifted more towards articulating the key concerns and positions with respect to the details and implementation of these two recommendations.

The five natural resource professions worked in lock-step to articulate several commonly shared positions while also bringing forward concerns specific to their individual profession. The positions taken by the ABCFP were supported both by the results of the member survey on Recommendations 1 and 2, our knowledge and first-hand experience in professional governance, and the advice of the Council. The ABCFP positions are summarized as follows:

R1. Establish an Independent Office

  • The purview of any such Office must be restricted to matters of governance. Clear limits must be included to prevent the Office from intruding on the operations of the professions and unintended scope creep into matters of professional practice.
  • Any such Office must be independent of, and protected from, political agendas.
  • The Office must not create inherent conflicts of interest by simultaneously directing the profession while also monitoring the profession.
  • The Office should not be governed by a single authority without external checks and balances. For example, the head of any such office should report to an advisory board that includes representatives of the Natural Resource Sector (NRS) Professional Regulators and related NRS Ministries. Additionally the legislation should place clear limitations and parameters to the powers of intrusion into regulators by the Office.
  • The Office should leverage existing government infrastructure and resources to deliver specialized functions to ensure only individuals with proven, current expertise undertake the work; and
  • The Government must fund the work of the Office. To require NRS professions to pay for the office would be discriminatory and create a two-tier system of government oversight of BC professions.

R2. Legislate Critical Elements of Professional Governance

  • Preserve all of the ABCFP’s existing statutory duties and objects.
    • The net effect of changes should be to enhance and refine the work of the profession, not reduce or remove current rights and responsibilities as long as they support and protect the public’s interest.
    • Preserve the ABCFP’s existing dual status as both a regulator and professional association.
  • Maintain a place for individual professionals to have a voice in their profession.
    • We support greater public involvement in both Council and statutory committees, but there must be a clear majority of practising professionals.
    • Maintain elections as the method to select professional members of Council.
  • Strengthen the ability to address unauthorized professional practice.
  • Ensure new or modified provisions are practical and do not place an unnecessary burden on the professional regulator.

We are cautiously optimistic the government has heard our concerns. New legislation and the Office of Professional Regulation and Oversight will significantly change how forest professionals are governed and we hope these changes will achieve the government’s goal of increasing public confidence in the management of BC’s natural resources. We look forward to working with the government to consider the remaining recommendations that will directly affect management of the land base and hope the government will not be satisfied with merely changing the governance structure of natural resource professionals.

Related Documents

ABCFP Response to the Report on the Professional Reliance Review
ABCFP Stakeholder Submission to the BC Government’s Professional Reliance Review

In October 2017, the BC government announced it was undertaking a review of professional reliance in the natural resource sector.

The government statement on the review said it would address questions around:

  • Whether government oversight of professional associations is adequate; and
  • Conditions governing the involvement of QPs in government’s resource management decisions and the appropriate level of government oversight to assure the public its interests are protected.

In the ensuing months, the ABCFP underwent a compliance audit consisting of an in-person interview with government representatives where ABCFP senior staff responded to 53 questions about the work of the profession, the functioning of the association, and the related regulatory regime in which professionals operate. The final audit report determined the ABCFP is in compliance with its legislation and is meeting its mandate.

In December 2017, the government undertook a survey of professionals working in the natural resource sector including forest professionals as well as inviting members of the public and interested stake holders to share their opinions about the state of professional reliance.

In June 2018, the government released the final report of the professional reliance review, written by lawyer Mark Haddock.

At more than 130 pages, the report contained 121 recommendations. You can find the full report along with a summary of the recommendations and list of stakeholder submissions (including the ABCFP’s) on the government’s Engage website.


What is Professional Reliance?

Application of Professional Reliance
Examples of Professional Reliance
Professional Reliance in the News

Within forestry, professional reliance is the practice of accepting and relying upon the decisions and advice of forest professionals (Registered Professional Foresters and Registered Forest Technologists) who accept responsibility and can be held accountable for the decisions they make and the advice that they give.

Professional reliance rests on a framework in which:

  • forest professionals, having the required education, knowledge, expertise, and experience, apply their judgment and make decisions for which they are accountable to the public through the ABCFP;
  • respectful challenges to a forest professional’s decisions are accepted and can be addressed with a sound rationale;
  • the rights and obligations of forest professionals are respected and supported by employers, clients, and government; and
  • forest professionals follow existing legislation, regulation, and policy established by the government to guide management and protection of the forest and environment.

Supporting this framework is the requirement that forest professionals serve and protect the public interest. The exclusive rights of practice and title are privileges granted to forest professionals by the public who trust and expect that forest professionals will:

  • stay abreast of current science, research, theory; and
  • apply their expertise wisely as stewards of forests, forest lands, and forest ecosystems, to achieve both long and short-term sustainability of forests, forest lands and forest ecosystems.

A short video explaining professional reliance in the forestry sector.


The Application of Professional Reliance

Professional reliance is commonplace in our society. We rely on the judgement and advice of our doctor when we have to address a health concern. Each time we drive over a bridge we are relying on the knowledge, expertise, and experience of an engineer. The added element to professional reliance is that while we rely on the work of the professional we can also hold them individually accountable for their work. The professional cannot switch jobs, move, or otherwise avoid accountability. This element means that professionals act independently from their employer’s interest and maintain their competence in a specific area of practice. Both independence and competence are hallmarks of professional reliance.


Examples of Professional Reliance in Forestry

REPORT: Example of Professional Reliance at Work: Forest Stewardship Plan
A major development project for an area of forest land will be a concern for several forest resource rights holders (forest tenure holders, licensed trapper, recreation lease), regional recreation users, and a regional district government. The planning process is led by a forest professional working for the primary forest tenure holder and will involve the coordination of work by several forest professionals and other resource professionals, all of whom have different skill sets. The sharing of the information between professionals, the scheduling of the work, the implementation of the project, and monitoring of outcomes is essential to achieve the project goals.

REPORT: Example of Professional Reliance at Work: Peer Review
A forest professional prepares a forest harvesting prescription for an area. Prior to submitting the harvest prescription for implementation, the forest professional arranges for the prescription to be peer reviewed by another qualified professional.


Professional Reliance in the News

January 5, 2018
SUBMISSION: ABCFP Stakeholder Submission to the BC Government’s Professional Reliance Review
As part of the government’s review of professional reliance, professional associations were invited to make formal submissions. The ABCFP submission contains information about the association, an outline of the professional reliance system and participants in the system, and a suite of recommendations for improvement.

November 10, 2017
LETTER: Joint Letter on Professional Reliance Review
On November 10th, 2017, a joint letter was sent to Jennifer McGuire, Assistant Deputy Minister, Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy from several professional associations, including the Association of BC Forest Professionals, Engineers and Geoscientists of BC, the College of Applied Biology, the BC Institute of Agrologists, and the Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of BC. The associations offered to meet with the Ministry as a group to share insights and inform the professional reliance review.

October 10, 2017
NEWS ARTICLE: Column by Christine Gelowitz, RPF, ABCFP CEO, published in the Vancouver Sun: Bringing Public Confidence to BC's Forest Management.

October 3, 2017
NEWS RELEASE: Association of BC Forest Professionals Ready to Participate in Government Review of Professional Reliance.