RELEASE: Professional Reliance Review Report Provides Solutions Looking for a Problem

June 28, 2018

Professional Reliance Review Report Provides Solutions Looking for a Problem

June 28, 2018 (Vancouver, BC) - The Business Council of British Columbia has significant concerns with the recently released Professional Reliance Review Report which has offered a series of recommendations related to the province’s “Professional Reliance” model that is used as the government’s regulatory process for natural resource industries.

“The Business Council recognizes and supports continual improvement in the environmental regulatory framework. However, this report on Professional Reliance is a solution looking for a problem, with the resulting recommendations going beyond an assessment of how professionals actually work in British Columbia,” said Greg D’Avignon, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Business Council. “The report, despite the facts contained within it, confuses regulatory capacity within government with the role that independent, qualified professionals play in project design, business operations and the protection of the environment.”

This latest re-examination of Professional Reliance was commissioned by the province last year. It reviews the governance arrangements that apply to qualified professionals and their respective associations, including agrologists, technologists, technicians, biologists, engineers, geoscientists and forest professionals. Each of these professional designations is governed by its own compliance and regulatory bodies with subject matter expertise, to ensure professional standards are upheld to the highest level. These professional associations also provide continuing education for qualified professionals, as is done in other sectors like health care for doctors and nurses. Failing to meet the standards set by their professional bodies creates the potential for a regulated professional to lose their livelihood.

The Business Council supports periodic governance reviews of professional associations to ensure they have the tools necessary to maintain the highest standards. However, this report looks at the use of professionals in various permitting processes and it makes recommendations that are contrary to the facts and the audit results considered by the author.

“We agree that high professional, technical and ethical standards must be maintained to preserve British Columbia’s public, economic and environmental interests,” said D’Avignon. “Unfortunately, this report fails to recognize that whether professionals work in the private or public sector, they are all bound by the same legal and ethical standards.”

“Many professionals throughout the course of their career work inside and outside government and bring the same expertise to the job regardless of their specific place of employment. To suggest that a professional working for government is somehow more skilled and ethical than one in the private sector is an affront to professionals across British Columbia,” continued D’Avignon.

For some time, the Business Council and our colleagues in British Columbia’s resource industries have been calling for increased capacity and staff in the front-line Ministries. This would enable more timely decisions on permits and in regulatory processes governing activities on the land base, thus facilitating sustainable economic growth in communities around the province. Government’s responsibility is to enforce its laws, policies and regulations, not to oversee the maintenance of professional standards -- particularly in highly specialized industries and occupations that are subject to continuous innovations and improvements.

“Having access to highly skilled and professionally qualified talent is essential to economic growth and BC’s future prosperity, as well as to Indigenous people’s participation in the economy through the necessary capacity and expertise,” said D’Avignon. “This report suggests the provincial government does not trust qualified professionals to do their job at the appropriate standard. As such, it may place a chill on BC’s ability to attract and retain these professionals in the future.”

Economic prosperity and employment opportunities for families in communities around British Columbia are built on sustainable natural resource development. Natural resource goods represent 75% of BC’s international merchandise exports and 12-13% of gross domestic product. These industries continue to provide an important foundation for the public services demanded by British Columbians, including health and education, which draw on revenues generated by private sector investment and business activity in the forestry, mining, energy, and agri-food sectors.

The recommendations in this report, if implemented by the province, will add to the growing cumulative burden that government policies and administrative processes are imposing on business and investment in British Columbia. The province must to consider the Professional Reliance report in the context of other developments affecting the business climate, including the current environmental assessment review, changes to Crown land tenure policy, caribou protection plans, as well as increased payroll and carbon costs. All of these developments are hurting the province’s reputation as a place to invest and do business.

We look forward to continuing to work with government to ensure a rational, measured and pragmatic assessment of the actual improvements that can be advanced against the verified facts. Unfortunately, many of the conclusions drawn from today’s report would create duplication and return us to processes long since proven inefficient and inferior to the public and economic interests of the province, and move us away from many of the internationally recognized best practices inherent in British Columbia’s current model.

“At this point, the most sensible thing the government can do is shelve this report,” stated D’Avignon. “Overall, the Professional Reliance system is working well. No convincing evidence has been brought forward in this report that the province ought to abandon or fundamentally change it.”

About the Business Council of British Columbia

Now in its 52nd year as the premier business organization in British Columbia, the Business Council of B.C. is a non-partisan organization made up of 250 leading companies, post-secondary institutions and industry associations from across B.C.'s diverse economy. The Council produces exceptional public policy research and advocacy in support of creating a competitive economy for the benefit of all British Columbians.

Cheryl Maitland Muir

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