Professional Governance Act (PGA)
PGA Replaced the Foresters Act on Feb. 5, 2021
Regulations to fully implement the Professional Governance Act (PGA) came into effect on Friday, Feb. 5, 2021. At the same time, the Foresters Act, which has governed the ABCFP since 1947, was repealed.
The PGA is similar to the Foresters Act in that it also grants the ABCFP the privilege of self-regulation, although we won’t have the same autonomy in our self-regulation status. The Office of the Superintendent of Professional Governance (OSPG) now oversees the operation of all professions under the PGA, setting policy directives regulators must follow, and auditing against those policies and regulatory standards.
Under the PGA, the fundamentals for the forest profession remain the same:
- a Forest Professionals Regulation continues our existing reserved practice rights – albeit using some different words to describe it; and
- continues to protect our existing reserved titles.
New ABCFP Bylaws also took effect Feb. 5, 2021. New bylaws were needed in order to transition the rights and authorities from the Foresters Act and meet the requirements of the PGA.
The PGA primarily impacts the way the ABCFP, as a regulatory body, undertakes its work. It also creates some limited, new obligations for forest professionals directly, including:
You can learn more in our publication, The Professional Governance Act: What You Need to Know. New Guidelines for the Interpretation of the Code of Ethical and Professional Conduct will help you understand and apply the Code. A series of webinars is also available to explain how the Code and new ABCFP Bylaws may affect your practice.
The ABCFP is also working on new and revised policies and procedures, which will sit under the new bylaws, as part of the transition to governance under the PGA. The ABCFP will have one year after the PGA provisions are brought into force on Feb. 5, 2021 to realign these supporting policy, procedures, and practices to meet the new PGA requirements.
This will result in changes to how ABCFP business operations are conducted, will change council and committee authorities and responsibilities, and will modify the obligations of forest professionals.
About the PGA
The PGA provides a governance framework for self-regulating professions that incorporates best practices of professional governance. The PGA initially governs the five professional regulators overseeing forest professionals, engineers and geoscientists, agrologists, applied biologists, and applied science technologists and technicians.
The act establishes the OSPG, which oversees the ABCFP and other regulators currently under the act.
In 2019, the first regulation under the PGA, Professional Governance General Regulation, was established to set merit-based selection principles and the process for the nomination of registered professionals to stand for election to council; identified relevant provincial legislation that is related to the practice of the professions in scope of the PGA; and identified documents and information that may be disclosed in the public interest.
Read the BC Government fact sheet on the PGA.
OSPG Annual Report 2019-2020
The OSPG released its annual report in May 2020. The report covers the period from the superintendent’s appointment in June, 2019 to March 31, 2020 and was prepared in accordance with section 19(1) of the PGA.
Bill 49: Professional Governance Act became law on November 27, 2018. The Act will come into force through a series of regulations. The first regulation, the Professional Governance General Regulation, was brought into force on June 1, 2019.
The PGA is based on Recommendations 1 and 2 from the government’s Professional Reliance Report, authored by Mark Haddock, and released in June of 2018.
Consultation on the PGA
To seek feedback to help inform the development of future policy and regulations, the BC government published a Regulations Intentions Paper in December 2018 as a means to explore three specific subjects of professional governance referenced in the PGA.
Feed-back was sought on the following three general areas of inquiry:
- Practice rights of professions - what is required to support professions governed under the act to operate with both reserved titles and practices, and what considerations should guide the process of defining reserved practices for the professions?
- Regulation of firms - what is required to support professions governed under the act to regulate firms, and what general and profession-specific considerations should this framework take into account?
- 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?
In early 2019, the ABCFP surveyed forest professionals on the areas of inquiry and used the information to draft a response paper, ABCFP Response to Regulations Intentions Paper, which was submitted to the government in March 2019.
For background on the genesis of the PGAand the association’s contributions and input, see the ABCFP’s Professional Reliance review web page.
2019 ABCFP Conference Video: Panel Discussion About the PGA
The 2019 ABCFP conference in Kamloops featured a panel discussion about the PGA and the possible effects of forest professionals. Some of the issues touched on include: regulating firms that employ forest professionals; the pending requirement for forest professionals to declare any conflict of interest before beginning work on a project; the expectation that forest professionals will report incidents of poor or improper practice; possible continuing education requirements that support reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, and giving biologists, agrologists, and technologists the right to practice, a status until now held only by engineers and foresters.
The panel was composed of:
- Christine Gelowitz, RPF, chief executive officer, ABCFP;
- Ann English, PEng, CEO, Engineers Geoscientists BC; and
- Christine Houghton, executive director, College of Applied Biology.
View the video:
Recordings of December Government Webinars on Bill 49 Now Available
Recordings from the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy’s December series of webinars relating to its Regulations Intentions Paper can now be viewed from the government’s Engage BC website.
The webinars deal with proposed regulations to implement sections of Bill 49.
- PGA Overview – General;
- PGA Overview – Indigenous;
- Practice Rights of Professions;
- Regulation of Firms; and
- Competency Declarations and Conflict of Interest Declarations.
Government Tables PGA
The BC government on October 22, 2018, tabled the PGA, 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:
- 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, the act only affects professional governance and makes no changes to policies that regulate how the environment and land base are managed.
BC Government 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.