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PEO's authority in Ontario has its limits

BY ANNETTE BERGERON, P.ENG., MBA President-elect, Professional Engineers Ontario It's a pleasure to return to beautiful North Bay for this important annual engineering symposium. This year's theme on infrastructure reminds us to reflect on 2012 as we engineer our future. Events, such as the tragedy in Elliot Lake, the stage collapse at Toronto's Downsview Park and the crumbling Gardiner Expressway in Toronto, have provided us all with a sober reminder of just how frail our infrastructure system can be. Determining the root cause of such events, and finding appropriate solutions, however, can often be challenging. Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) regulates professional engineering in the province but its authority under the Professional Engineers Act has its limits. PEO regulates engineering practice through the licensing of practitioners, the setting of standards of practice and behaviour for practitioners, and the discipline of licence or certificate holders who have been found not to have upheld the required standards. It also has authority to enforce in the courts the act's licensure and title provisions, so that no one can practise professional engineering or lead others to believe they are entitled to practise unless they are licensed by PEO. However, if PEO identifies what it thinks is a systemic engineering design or oversight problem during its investigation of a complaint against an individual licence or certificate holder, it does not have authority to investigate all the other potential manifestations of the same problem. It can only act where a problem involving a particular engineering work or practitioner has come to light. This means the public might be put at risk, potentially for years, in such situations. One solution to this problem, as PEO

Annual Professional Engineers' Day

Friday, January 25 2013

The President-Elect Reception will be held Jan. 25 at the Clarion Resort Pinewood Park in the Founders Day Room starting at 5:30 p.m.

North Bay Chapter President Denis Dixon, P.Eng., FEC, has suggested, is for the Government of Ontario to appoint a Provincial Engineer, with overall authority for engineering works in the province. This position, similar to that of the province's Chief Medical Officer of Health, could provide leadership and specific direction in situations like the Algo Centre Mall collapse and determine whether such situations are indicative of systemic problems. An independent Ontario Provincial Engineer who is an officer of the legislature would be in a position to act in such instances, where PEO is not. Such a person could also ensure that an engineering perspective is considered at every stage when decisions relating to infrastructure and large-scale engineering projects are made. Today, our province is facing many challenges related to deteriorating infrastructure and the management of aging assets. Professional engineers can be an integral part of the solution, in planning, developing, building and maintaining our public infrastructure. Licensed practitioners appreciate the importance of work that is not only technically competent, but also done with sound professional ethics. They work to protect the public's safety and promote its interest where engineering matters are concerned. And, they help to ensure that provincial laws relating to engineering work and regulation of the profession adequately and properly serve and protect the public. This concern for the impact of their work on society contributes to an understanding among engineers that infrastructure projects are investments to society that require ongoing attention and whose costs must be measured in more than dollars and cents. We at PEO are always interested in the opinion of the public with respect to safety, and the opinion of our engineers.

An Advertising Feature of the North Bay Nugget

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 ANNETTE BERGERON, P.ENG., MBA - President-elect, Professional Engineers Ontario

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