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Ontario Geoscientists Launch Own Professional Association

How The New Ontario Professional Geosciences Act May Affect Ontario Consulting Firms...


How The New Ontario Professional Geosciences Act May Affect Ontario Consulting Firms

The Legislation

On June 8, 2000, Honourable Tim Hudak, Minister of Northern Development and Mines, introduced the Professional Geoscientists Act, 2000 to first reading in the Ontario Legislature, and the Act was given Royal Assent on June 23, 2000. On September 8, 2000, Minister Hudak appointed the First Council of APGO.

So the process of implementing the Act is well underway. The Regulations have undergone review and the by-laws are being crafted. Following adoption of the final by-laws, the APGO expects to be able to accept membership applications by the end of the second quarter of this year.

The Legislature, simply put, states that to practice as a geoscientist in Ontario, or to provide geoscience services, you will have to be registered by APGO, just as engineers have to be registered by the PEO. This is a major, positive change in geoscience practice.

In passing the Professional Geoscientists Act, 2000, the Ontario government made it very clear that one of the prime reasons for doing so was the importance of having high standards of geoscience practice in the environment. They recognized that it is important to license geoscientists to ensure that only qualified, accountable persons, working under recognized professional standards, are allowed to make decisions that affect the welfare of the public. They also recognized that environmental geoscience is a major and growing discipline. Some 35% of geoscience practitioners work in the environmental area now, and it is estimated that within the next 10 years, this will probably increase to 50%.

Effects of the Legislation on Consulting Engineering Firms

Consulting Engineering firms that employ geoscientists and provide geoscience services to the public in Ontario may now have to obtain a certificate of authorization (CofA) from the APGO. This means that if you have professional geoscientists doing landfill contamination work, groundwater supply work, environmental assessments involving geoscience, or any type of geoscience practice, your firm will have to be certified.

In the past, engineers who are principals in firms employing geoscientists have, in many cases, e.g. contaminated sites, been placed in the position of having to take responsibility for geoscientific work even though they may not be qualified to do so. However, there was no option, because there was no licensure of geoscientists in Ontario. Now, once the Act is fully implemented, professional geoscientists will have the same responsibilities and accountability required of professional engineers, as they already have in most of Canada.

Effects of the Legislation on Geoscientists

All geoscientists providing geoscience services to the public will have to be registered as Professional Geoscientists (P.Geo.). While at one time geoscientists were admitted to be P.Eng.’s, this practice ceased with the passage of the revised Professional Engineers Act in 1984, which removed natural scientists from the definition of engineering. As a consequence, the expertise that was once licensed by the PEO as P.Eng.’s will now be licensed under the APGO as P.Geo.’s.

The Qualified Person Concept and its Effect on Environmental Geoscience

As a consequence of the recommendations of the Mining Standards Task Force, published in February 1999, which have been incorporated into National Instrument 43-101, the Toronto Stock Exchange and the Ontario Securities Commission will require any geoscientists reporting for security purposes to be not only licensed as a P.Geo. or P.Eng., but also to be a Qualified Person (QP). This concept is a regulatory, not a licensing designation. A QP is "a licensed professional geoscientists who is a member of a self-governing body requiring compliance with a Code of Ethics or Practice, and who has a minimum of five (5) years relevant experience". The QP is self proclaimed for each specific project.

The APGO strongly endorsed this concept and believed that it should also apply to the area of environmental geoscience practice. Subsequently, the APGO Qualified Persons Task Force for the Environmental Geosciences has recommended that this QP concept be applied to environmental geoscience practice. This concept is being seriously considered by several government ministries involved in environmental legislation in Ontario, particularly the Ministry of the Environment. This already affects your practice if you are involved in mining-related environmental work and could, in the future, affect your practice in many other areas.

How You Get more Information

The APGO has offices at 8 King Street East, Suite 400, Toronto, Ontario, M5C 1B5. The telephone number is 426-203-2746. The web site is www.geosci.on.ca. Bill Pearson, the President and John Bowlby, Vice President, can be reached at the above address or by E-mail at geosci.on@phonets.com.

John F. Gartner, P.Eng.
Advisor, Environmental Affairs
APGO