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OSPE QUESTIONS, 2006

 

1.   I was one of the original four members of Brampton Chapter who started work on an Advocacy Organization in 1992. I continued my support until two years into the actual organization when my comments were no longer welcomed by the then directors.

2.   OSPE was conceived to represent the members and to hopefully raise our profile, fight some turf wars, protect the members from bureaucracy and injustice. There were 23 items in the original pre-charter expectations. OSPE has the potential to bring great benefits to the members but needs to refocus to do so, in my personal opinion. Please bear in mind that I am currently not close to OSPE happenings and it may appear different to someone closer to the action. However, there are 55,000 PEO members who are also not close to the OSPE action.

3. I have no personal confusion at all over who SHOULD do what. The Act and Regulations are quite clear about PEO’s primary objectives. A couple of years ago OSPE was producing a document that claimed OSPE was involved in the protection of the public, Quite clearly that is PEO business. OSPE was set up to benefit the members. If OSPE were to undertake more visible advocacy it might be easier for the members to differentiate the two organizations, The original concept was for core services to be covered by the membership fee and optional services covered at additional cost. Typical of the programs that some of us need is Professional Liability insurance. I am unaware of any recent progress on this. Secondary Liability Insurance is another item that has not moved in several years.

4. First ask “Is our image bad” and if so “Why is it bad”. I am not convinced that we have a bad image. We are trusted enough to have a self-governing organization and there are very few civil or criminal instances that involve engineers. I believe that we are confusing the symptoms of a bad image with what we perceive others think of us. We are perhaps sometimes treated badly by Architects, engineering employers, Contactors, and some sectors of government. I believe that a large part of this is due to the current oversupply of engineers which is definitely above 100,000, probably by a large number. We have made ourselves easily replaceable by other engineers by writing codes and computer programs so that technologists and many unlicensed but otherwise capable people can do a considerable portion of our work. We suffer from Government edicts that allow any person who CAN do something to earn a living to be allowed to do it. Enforcement is difficult and against firms with deep pockets is not likely to be successful.

I think there are two keys to improving the engineer’s lot. We need to convince the Federal Government that we need either less immigration of engineers, or substantial programs to develop manufacturing and industrial opportunities. With third world wages as low as they are and their recent purchasing of just about all our manufacturing equipment a factory at a time one of these options is not going to happen.

The second requirement is to maintain our competency and improve our collective abilities. When we have 50% of engineers surveyed by CCPE claiming to be either doing non-engineering work or to be under-employed it needs extra effort to read the current learned journals. Who knows, the knowledge you gain could get you that job you really want and you will not embarrass the profession by going into it with ten year old technology.

In short I do not see an easy fix for enhancing our image and paying for adverts that shout out how great we are may have a transient effect but will likely not get rid of the symptoms. I see it as a situation that will be with us for at least a generation. And, by the way, I write regularly to my MP and others in Ottawa.

5.a) There is a current definition of Professional Engineering in Section 1 of the Act which has been adequate for years. I am on a PEO Committee that is making slight changes to the definition and OSPE director John Clayton went on our behalf to CCPE to get some national agreement on the definition. Until that is approved I accept the present definition.

6. There is definitely some sort of exception in the Act but it is not as wide as it is generally interpreted by the industrialists. IF we have an exemption or an exception it should be based on PEO’s say-so. NOT the person who arbitrarily thinks that he should be exempt. We need a process similar to the C of A that is submitted to PEO for approval with the details of WHY this corporation should be exempted from normal PEO oversight. PEO should make the decision on perhaps a three or five year basis.

7. Ask an engineer what he does and in 3 seconds you have his specialty. The problem which we all have is that we do a host of other things that may not be related to our off-the-cuff answer. What we are all afraid of is being pigeon holed into an area where we might earn only 10% of our current income and be prevented from earning the other 90% because we don’t have the right piece of paper to “qualify” us. We are into specialization whether we like it or not because various Government agencies require that we state we are in a particular field. To date our exercise with MMAH was dismal, not entirely from our side. We must conform to some extent with what the Government wants, particularly depending on what the outcome of our legal exercise is. My hope is that Specialties are something that we can individually choose to earn, or buy, or be grand-fathered into. But it must NEVER become a way of separating engineers from our broad based knowledge

8. Continuing education needs further definition before we laud or trash it. WE must ALL continue learning, it is just a matter of how much, how quickly and where. University classes would not be my choice as I have used so little of the knowledge that flowed past me in that period. In fact most formal transferred knowledge seems to decay so quickly that it is difficult to justify the price. Unless you need the piece of paper. We should absolutely read our journals to keep up to date and to understand the new concepts being used, but most of us would be hard pressed at a moment’s notice to come up with the 50 item flow chart confirming a control sequence that we remember reading about last month? Indeed, should any of us ever have to?  I am in favor of self assessment, probably done at licence renewal time. To what extent should big brother look over these assessments will be debated. I prefer it just to be filed unless something untoward happens.

9. See above for my comments on engineer over-supply. We can do little to increase the remuneration for the same work that we always do. The best solution would be to get every one on a level playing field where an engineering job has all the components listed in the guidelines, and no one does a cheap job with a sketch and the usual disclaimers all the way through of “the contractor shall” In many cases I read this as “the contractor shall, because the engineer hasn’t a clue how to” We need to do a more thorough standard of work and if someone takes a job for a thousand dollars he should still have to produce the same items that were considered when our guidelines and fee schedules were set up decades ago. The same logic MUST be applied to off-shoring. All work must be done to our standards and must be signed off by someone Licensed here.

10. My resume indicating that I am retired is not quite correct. I spend most days trading the stock market and most evenings preparing for the following day and researching corporate mergers etc.. I’ve never been so busy. I am fortunate that there are periods of inaction in the day when I can address other matters and I can usually respond within the day on most PEO matters. I have the time available to read a typical two inch thick binder in preparation for each Council meeting, which is something not accomplished by all Councilors.

If elected, I will continue to serve diligently.

Denis Dixon. P.Eng.

   
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