Canadian Consulting Engineer

MAILBOX (August 01, 2000)

August 1, 2000
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

Bridging CulturesRe. the article that appeared in March-April (Bridge Builder, from India to Montreal, p. 78). We are indeed proud of the efforts made by Rajubhai Parikh, P.Eng. in bridging the gaps b...

Bridging Cultures

Re. the article that appeared in March-April (Bridge Builder, from India to Montreal, p. 78). We are indeed proud of the efforts made by Rajubhai Parikh, P.Eng. in bridging the gaps between cultures. Your article in itself will help build bridges between cultures by encouraging others to follow the example of Mr. Parikh.

Kumar Malde, P.Eng.,

Gujarati Samaj Montreal Inc.

Urbanites must pay their own way

Re: “Traffic Snarls Must Go” (Upfront, January-February, p. 13).

Ever since I stopped working on Parliament Hill in the mid-80s (I was a Member’s assistant for a time, back during the years when I couldn’t get a first engineering job), I’ve noticed the municipalities, and now engineers, calling for more senior government funds for municipal and transportation infrastructures.

It is true that underfunding of these infrastructures costs us, through increased business costs, loss of economic competitiveness, pollution and poorer public health. However, I have always thought it wrong to ask the taxpayers of such places as Fogo Island, Nfld. or Spuzzum, B.C. to subsidize the taxpayers from the generally much wealthier parts of the country that are usually asking for the handouts.

It costs governments more to pack people together into urban areas. In rural areas, costs for sewage disposal and water supply are more often covered directly by the homeowner, rather than collectively through taxes (as a boy growing up on a South Okanagan orchard, we and our neighbours had a septic field, of course, but we also had cisterns for our winter water supply — part of the cost of having a house). Those of us who feel that we need to live in urban areas should be prepared to pay the costs involved.

There is also a broader policy issue here, affecting the governance of the country. There is already a dichotomy between urban and rural areas. The cultural differences are not dissimilar to those between different countries of Europe. The battles over the most recent gun control legislation highlight the difficulties of creating policies that work for the country as a whole when there is such a marked contrast between urban and rural areas. Hence, this contrast should not be encouraged by subsidizing the costs of packing people into urban areas.

I feel that the governments who carry the responsibilities for these infrastructures should pay the costs of maintaining them. In a nutshell, the user — and benefitter — should pay.

Guy Roberts, P.Eng.

Surrey, B.C.

Junk science holds sway

Re. Comment, Why Don’t They Listen? (June-July, p. 4). Media, Media, Media. Engineers need to understand the media and give it due respect, because we will let the media kill our client and the public by causing the spending on wrong priorities, by giving “junk science” control of the design agenda.

Even so, the hyperbole of “[Walkerton’s] water was so seriously contaminated it created conditions reminiscent of the Third World,” is on the fringe of “junk science” and is mistaken. It is Canada. Look to northern Ontario, look to Toronto’s beaches, look to remote communities, look to private wells. This stuff happens in Canada. I would like to be sure of the causes of Walkerton before I reach a conclusion such as yours of “well funded” [infrastructure being the answer].

Suppose the actions of a single, fatigued man doing what he thought best are found to be the cause, then no spending or taxes or regulations could have worked. I read of “safer sex fatigue” today in the Toronto Star, and have heard of “donator fatigue” and “volunteer fatigue.” Perhaps it is time engineers address the issue of “vigilance fatigue” in design by having high enough safety factors to allow for human “vigilance fatigue” and not material limits. Perhaps in that safe haven of safety factor design we could finally have infrastructure that is not in the “just in time” mode and not based on “junk science.”

John Van Egmond, P.Eng.,

Georgetown, Ont.

Intent to be heard

Thank-you for your excellent Comment, “Why Don’t They Listen?” (June-July). We can only regard it as a ringing endorsement of the mandate of Ontario’s new advocacy organization for engineering, the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE).

The editorial very succinctly sums up the problem OSPE aims to address — the lack of a strong public voice for engineering, and the apparent unwillingness of engineers as a group to step into the media spotlight by speaking out on public issues involving engineering.

The recent tainted water tragedy in Ontario you identify as one such issue, one crying out for comment by professional engineers. We couldn’t agree more. Indeed, OSPE has been waiting impatiently for the Ontario Ministry of the Environment to come forward with its long-promised new regulation under the Ontario Water Resources Act as an opportunity to take a public stance on this vitally important issue. Further, we intend to prepare a submission to the public inquiry. Unfortunately, as an organization newly incorporated in April, we weren’t quite ready to speak out in May when Walkerton first made headlines.

We have been busy, though, developing a governance structure for OSPE that will allow for broad input by members, and will help surface strategic issues facing the profession. For that reason, OSPE intends to organize itself along sector lines, as well as geographically, as evidence strongly suggests that issues and interest around those issues arise on an industry sector basis. Already members have identified a number of issues we will be looking at, including problems with predevelopment reviews, low fee bidding and air quality problems. We do intend to be heard.

Jeremy P. Cook, P.Eng.

Chair, Ontario Society of Professional Engineers Board of Directors.

Sex and the work place

We applaud the recent article “Sexual Harassment,” (March-April, p. 69) which contained good advice on how engineering firms can be proactive in protecting their employees, customers and suppliers from inappropriate behaviour. If engineers are to be seen as professionals, we must ensure that our behaviour reflects that status.

In an effort to help professional engineers “stay out of the headlines” on issues of harassment or discrimination, Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) has published a Guideline on Human Rights in Professional Practice. The guideline is based on the following PEO policy:

“All members of Professional Engineers Ontario have a professional responsibility to respect the human rights of others, and to:

be proactive in understanding human rights issues,

be familiar with applicable legislation,

take action where appropriate to protect human rights, and

be vigilant against discrimination and harassment.”

We encourage all readers to become familiar with the new guideline, available free from and to put it into practice in their workplaces.

We’d also like to inform readers that, at PEO’s request, a definition of harassment as professional misconduct will soon be included in Section 72 of Regulation 941/90 under the Professional Engineers Act.

Sarah Shortreed, P.Eng.,

Karen Webb, P.Eng.

Co-Chairs, Women in Engineering Advisory Committee

Professional Engineers Ontario

Write to the Editor by e-mail:, or regular mail: CCE, 1450 Don Mills Rd., Toronto, Ontario, M3B 2X7.


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