September 25, 2013
Picking up on the efforts of the previous AIBC Council, your current council representatives have carried forth the development of a five-year strategic plan that will guide council decision-making for the coming years. Amongst the agreed-upon priorities is pursuit of modernized legislation to govern the profession in this province.
It’s a goal that was pursued by previous councils with little in the way of success before being put onto the back-burner as the institute dealt with other, internal matters. However, the current message from members – expressed directly to council through the recent survey and voiced loudly at the 2013 Annual Meeting – is that such efforts should be resumed. It is a direction upon which your elected council is in agreement.
Recently, an AIBC delegation made its way to Victoria to discuss with government representatives the possibility of revisions to the Architects Act. On August 26, Executive Director Mike Ernest, AIBC Council Member Gord Richards and I met with Joe Thompson, a former Lieutenant Governor Appointee to council who happens to be Assistant Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Advanced Education. Also in attendance were current LG Appointees Mark Zacharias and Steve Simons, and AIBC Council Member Catherine Nickerson who works in the ministry. The central purpose of the meeting was to review the legislative process in Victoria and to seek guidance on how best to communicate with the government regarding legislative change.
The meeting was both informative and insightful. It was also a bit of a reality check.
The effort required to bring about legislative change is significant. In a very simplistic overview, there is a three-step process for getting a law enacted. First, a Request for Legislation is developed and approved by the minister responsible. This is, in essence, a policy paper that outlines the public interest for the proposed law including a benefits/risks analysis.
Once the request is approved, Legislative Council is then directed to draft the proposed law. The third step is debate in the provincial legislature, with various readings and committee work.
On average, it takes at least three years to complete the process – with no guarantees of success. As an example of the volume of requests for legislation our provincial government receives, the next spring sitting in Victoria has allocated a total of 20 bills to be brought before the house, selected from some 120 requests based on the priorities of the government. This is common for each sitting of the house.
Here’s another bit of sobering news: in the next sitting of the house, the Ministry of Advanced Education – our ministry – has not been allocated any of its bills to be introduced.
As architects, it is understandable that we would expect that priority should be given to our act, which is now approaching 100 years of age. However, there are many existing laws that also urgently need revision. As an example: it was described during our meeting that the government has been working on a new Waters Act – a piece of legislation likely to have a profound impact on a majority of B.C. citizens. The current Waters Act is more than 100 years old. The provincial government has been working on its revisions for three years now.
I do not want to give the impression of being pessimistic. In truth, we are well-positioned for positive and meaningful dialogue with government. Though no longer part of AIBC Council, Joe has indicated his willingness to assist the Institute and the profession in bringing matters to the attention of our minister. In addition, Steve, Mark and Catherine are in direct daily contact in Victoria.
In our meeting, we also discussed a new act versus substantial revision to the existing act. It was agreed that a request for major revisions to the Act probably stood a better chance for success. A major revision would likely entail changes to 1/3 to 1/2 of the existing clauses, of which our act has 85.
Moving forward, we are pleased to have been given an introductory meeting with our new minister this week. However, it is not likely to present an opportunity to discuss our interest in legislative renewal in any depth. To that end, we hope to meet with our deputy minister, preferably by the end of the year, followed ideally with a focused meeting with the minister in April or May, during the spring sitting of the house.
The next question is, “What revisions do we want?” It has been a difficult time for B.C.’s architectural profession of late, with much time and energy spent dealing with various contentious issues that themselves have ramifications for any potential reworking of our governing legislation. The signal from our members is loud and clear: Now is the time to put the past behind us and start a productive, meaningful dialogue focused on how our collective future can and should be crafted. If there is any one direction with the potential to impact our profession well into the future, it is act renewal and the possibilities that flow from it.
What act revisions do you think should be pursued? How best should your council communicate with the membership on this matter? We are seeking direct input from you, our members.
I encourage you to share your personal thoughts on act renewal, including whatever concerns you might have, and how best you’d like us to proceed. You can do so via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, you can also contact me directly at any time.
Council will be deliberating on this topic in the weeks and months ahead. In addition, over the coming year council will be scheduling opportunities to meet and hear directly from members and associates, on this important direction as well as whatever other professional concerns might be on your minds. It is part of this council’s renewed commitment to engaging with the membership, another of the priorities identified in our new five-year strategic plan … which itself will be shared with the membership in the days and weeks ahead.
I look forward to hearing from you, and to involving you in this important process.
Scott Kemp Architect AIBC
AIBC Council President