Talking To Government
Donald Wallace is the executive director of the Ontario Centre for Engineering and Public Policy (OCEPP). Canadian Consulting Engineer interviewed him in early January at the Centre, which is located ...
Donald Wallace is the executive director of the Ontario Centre for Engineering and Public Policy (OCEPP). Canadian Consulting Engineer interviewed him in early January at the Centre, which is located at the new offices of Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) in north Toronto.
Q. HOW DID OCEPP COME ABOUT?
Professional Engineers Ontario created OCEPP in June 2008. In the earlier part of the last decade I think that relations with government were stiff and there was a sense that there should be a strategy of trying to speak to government in a helpful, constructive way.
So while PEO does direct government relations work, the Centre was created to do the indirect work –which is to get engineers into the policy conversation, and to do it earlier in the process. Engineers are often tasked to solve a problem once somebody else has defined it. We would like engineers involved in the problem-definition part of the discussion.
There are about six or seven areas that we want to concentrate on. We don’t want to do everything; we’d rather do a few issues well. Those include energy, environment and infrastructure. We also want to look at health care, because engineers are critically important in the health care system but are often not seen that way.
In our first year it was vital that we established linkages with the provincial government in Queen’s Park. We will continue to build on that. In our second year, we would like to reach out much more to industry, both the consulting engineering industry and technology companies, which are the large employers of engineers, to make sure that we are talking about issues that are important to them.
The one area that is of real importance, and one that we continue to work on, is linkages with the universities.
Q. WHAT ABOUT OSPE, (ONTARIO SOCIETY FOR PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERS), WHICH WAS CREATED JUST A FEW YEARS AGO?
OSPE is there to speak directly on behalf of the interests of engineers. It is an advocacy organization, and so they will stand up and say, “Engineers think X, Y and Z.” The Centre doesn’t do that. The Centre doesn’t take positions. Rather, contributors to the Centre’s programs will take positions. It’s very hard in many areas to achieve consensus in the engineering community and we don’t really want to build that consensus. Whereas I think OSPE does want to try to get consensus around various issues.
We work very closely with OSPE and have excellent relations with them. We have held joint events and are collaborating very effectively but in a complementary way.
Q. WHAT ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND. YOU ARE NOT AN ENGINEER?
No. I have a Ph. D in political science. I think I was brought on by PEO because of my knowledge of the policy process. And I have worked a lot with engineers. I was previously associate provost for policy and planning at the University of Ontario Institute for Technology, which has not one, but two, faculties of engineering.