Capacity of ACPBC to act as a Regulatory Authority
In the first part of the brief we make the case that the Professional Chemist should be recognized along with the other professions that are actively involved in the economy and the protection of human welfare in the province. The next question is whether the Association of the Chemical Profession in British Columbia has the structure, organization, and developing acceptance in the regulatory framework in British Columbia to undertake the obligations of a regulatory authority. In this section we review the development of the ACPBC, and its evolution into a body in which the government and the public in British Columbia can have full confidence to take that next step.
The Association of the Chemical Profession of BC (ACPBC) was incorporated in May 2007 under the Society Act with seven directors. The bylaws and constitution had been developed over the previous two years by an implementation committee supported by some 50 chemists who had pledged support for the founding of ACPBC. In the year prior to its first Annual General Meeting (July 2008), membership was increased to over fifty members who were eligible for the AGM. Also in the inaugural year the required components of a professional organization were put in place. A Membership and Registration Committee, a Nominating Committee, and the Code of Ethics were developed, all of which were duly ratified by the membership. In subsequent years the Board appointed a Registrar, a Disciplinary Committee was established, a Disciplinary Policy was developed, and an Audit Committee was appointed by the members. By-law refinements were proposed and ratified at subsequent Annual General Meetings.
The recognition of the role of chemists and their rights and responsibilities has been an ongoing process. In 2009 an agreement with the Ministry of the Environment established a process for recognition of chemists as Qualified Professionals on a case-by-case basis on application to a Director in the Ministry of Environment. The ACPBC was approved by the members of the Contaminated Sites Approved Professionals Society (CSAP) as a parent organization. The ACPBC joined the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC, the College of Applied Biology, and the BC Institute of Agrology as the only other parent professional organizations. Notably this status was implemented in the CSAP By-Laws in 2010 and approved by the Ministry of Environment as required under Protocol 6 of the Contaminated Sites Regulation. The ACPBC was granted exclusive Right to Title in 2011 under Section 10 of the Society Act for the use of the titles “Professional Chemist, P.Chem.” and “Chemist in Training, C.I.T.”. Again the process involved formal public notice for comment in the media and certification by the Registrar of Societies. In 2012 the ACPBC was recognized as a professional association for participation in the Qualified Persons process led by the Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations, with the sole limiting qualification being that the ACPBC was not established in a statute.
ACPBC fulfills all of the core requirements of a Professional Association, and is fully capable of undertaking the obligations under legislation required of other professional associations in British Columbia.
The essence of professional organizations is that they have formal criteria for membership against which individuals are evaluated prior to membership. The competency of their members is established through education and work experience that is documented prior to registration. Registration of professional members is tied to their recognition of a Code of Ethics and their agreement to be bound by defined disciplinary procedures. The public interest is ensured via a robust complaints process and public roster of members currently in good standing.
All such processes are currently in place for professional members registered with the ACPBC. The criteria for membership specify a four-year university program in Chemistry as well as a period of employment as a chemist. Registration is not approved until the member has acknowledged a responsibility to be bound by the Code of Ethics and has agreed to be subject to the Disciplinary Policy of the Association. A Public Roster is maintained and updated continuously. The Roster and a Complaints Process are clearly available on the Association’s website.
In addition, registered members are required to continuously develop as professionals via an annual submission of practice hours and accounting for Professional Development activities. These submissions are subject to audit, currently at 10% of members per year. To facilitate the Professional Development of members, the ACPBC holds an ongoing series of Professional Development events and workshops to assist members in keeping abreast of current practices.
Members are encouraged to maintain E&O insurance as a component of their accountability to their clients, employers and the public. Working with a BC broker, the Association has made available an insurance policy in the province. At the invitation of ACPBC, this coverage has been extended to members of the Association of the Chemical Profession of Alberta (ACPA) as well.
Practices that would be required of the ACPBC as a Regulatory Authority are already in place.
Readers who are aware of the movement of Professional Biologists from a society, the Association of Professional Biologists of BC, to the College of Applied Biology (CAB) through statute in 2002 will recognize that the ACPBC is fully developed for taking a similar step forward.
The By-Laws of the ACPBC were developed to be directly congruent with the By-Laws of the Association of the Chemical Profession of Alberta (ACPA), as well as with other professional organizations within BC (APEGBC, CAB). The occupation “Professional Chemist” is recognized under the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) and more specifically in Chapter 7 of that Agreement. Within Alberta the ACPA is recognized as the Regulatory Authority for Professional Chemists. By aligning policies and practices with those of Alberta at the outset, we ensured that the eventual role the ACPBC will play in BC is aligned with its responsibilities under the Agreement on Internal Trade in Canada (AIT). The additional interprovincial agreement between BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan under the New West Partnership Trade Agreement (NWPTA) is modelled directly on the AIT in its Human Resource provisions including tables of recognized regulated occupations. The alignment extends further as discussed in the section on “Chemistry as a Regulated Profession in Canada”.
The procedures related to recognition of Professional Chemists across inter-provincial boundaries have been separately established at an operational level, as understood in in the framework of a Memorandum of Understanding signed by all established provincial Associations of Professional Chemists in 2009. Transfer of registration and dual registration processes are handled as an administrative matter between Registrars of the various Associations. This implicitly achieves the stated goal of the AIT to facilitate labor mobility within Canada, albeit without the supporting legislative framework within BC that exists in other provinces. The smooth movement of Professional Chemists between Alberta and BC is particularly beneficial in North East BC, and in the development of the LNG initiative that is underway.
The Society is governed by a Board of Directors with a President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer as Officers. The structure would be directly adaptable to structures found in statute such as the College of Applied Biology Act with the additional government appointed members of a Council that would be struck.
The Association has grown at an annual rate in excess of 15% per year in its initial years. ACPBC enjoys annual renewal of practising professionals in excess of 95%, with new members replacing those transferring or retiring. Despite this rapid growth, the standing committees for all governance and member service requirements including disciplinary and membership registration functions are in place and developing to meet the demand of individual chemists in BC for registration and associated professional support.
The Association has appointed a Registrar as an independent officer of the Board of Directors. The Registrar is responsible for the administrative function of the Association. A second professional member has been appointed as Associate Registrar to assist in the administrative oversight. They are supported by an Administrative Coordinator who handles the documentation and communications with members. A communication network is established consisting of a variety of electronic media. The Association website serves as a public portal as well as a central access point for members to connect with member services. Members maintain an ongoing dialogue via an on-line discussion group hosted in LinkedIn. Electronic communications between Board members and standing committees use a secure on-line wiki for the collaborative sharing and development of documents.
The ACPBC Treasurer oversees all expenditures and revenues and prepares annual financial statements for submission to the Annual General meeting and for audit. The ACPBC maintains a modest budgetary surplus as a contingency for fiduciary obligations. An ongoing annual budgeting process further supports the ongoing stability of the ACPBC, with an annual review of the membership fees structure of the Association. The financial statements of the ACPBC are subject to review by the Audit committee established under the requirements of the Society Act. The ACPBC has established a Group E&O Insurance policy in the value of $2 million to cover the actions of Board members and Officers of the Association.
It is important to note that regulatory authorities for the Professional Biologist and Professional Agrologist in BC currently have fees of $360 per annum (minimum). At that level and our current membership the ACPBC would have annual revenue near $76,000 which would be more than sufficient to meet obligations and would only increase with growth in membership that would follow. The growth experience following enactment of the College of Applied Biology is an example.
BC is home to world class research and education in science and technology generally, but especially in Chemistry. Chemistry degree programs at BC universities are nationally accredited (Canadian Society for Chemistry) and the quality of graduates is well-known nationally. Short-term unemployment of chemistry graduates is a chronic feature of the current job climate but overall unemployment rates among chemists remain significantly lower than in the economy generally.
The ACPBC purposes include the promotion of Chemistry and the Professional Chemist in BC. During 2011 – the International Year of Chemistry – the ACPBC with local and national chemical organizations sponsored public programs. We maintain an ongoing program of workshops and forums. These are principally of interest to our members as a component of their professional development, but are attended by members of the public as well. The Chemist in Training registration offers a bridge between BSc-level academic programs and full professional registration, and in support of this key transition, the ACPBC has a one-on-one mentoring program between established professional chemists across the province from many disciplines, and the C.I.T. and Student members of the Association.
The ACPBC has the current strength and capacity to support the development of a legislative proposal. We have access to expertise and can provide technical support to the drafting process. This position paper is a starting point. We have the commitment to prepare scoping documents on other jurisdictions, on the regulatory impacts of our proposed legislation within BC and nationally, and on the harmonization and compatibility of our legislation with other provincial professional enactments. We have already undertaken a review and a gap analysis of other professional legislation in BC to ensure that the scope of practice and other aspects of the proposal are correctly aligned. As well we have reviewed the obligations in other enactments and are confident we have the current capacity to meet those for the profession of chemistry. Through the ACPBC Board and Professional Affairs committee, developments on the role of Qualified Persons in BC that would affect an enactment are considered as they emerge. We are confident that our communication with other professional organizations through the national umbrella organization the Federation of Canada’s Professional Chemists makes the proposed scope of practice consistent with that in other provinces. As required, the ACPBC is available to facilitate consultations and public comment.