A letter to Alberta’s new Labour and Immigration Minister

Today Alberta Premier Danielle Smith announced the roles for her new cabinet. In response, CCI President Benjamin Bergen sent a letter to Kaycee Madu, who will become Alberta’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Skilled Trades and Professions.

Last week, CCI published an open letter to Premier Smith calling on her to intervene on behalf of the province’s tech sector, in response to ongoing threats and litigation from the Association of Professional Engineers of Alberta. You can read that letter at www.FreedomToInnovate.ca

Dear Deputy Premier Madu,

Congratulations on your new role as Deputy Premier and Minister of Skilled Trades and Professions. On behalf of Alberta’s technology leaders, we wish you success in your new roles and responsibilities. As you already know, there is an issue which urgently needs your attention, regarding Alberta’s Engineering and Geoscience Professions Act.

Last week, the Council of Canadian Innovators published an open letter to Premier Danielle Smith, signed by more than 30 business leaders, calling on the government to intervene and prevent the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) from engaging in aggressive litigation against technology companies who employ software engineers.

Since we published our open letter, we have experienced a groundswell of support. As of today, more than 100 CEOs, founders and other leaders who do business in Alberta have signed the open letter, and we continue to add new signatories every day. We have also been encouraged by messages of support from leaders in the wider Alberta business community.

Nobody is arguing that Professional Engineers should not be regulated and held to a rigorous standard. But it would be absurd to require network systems architects to be regulated by the Alberta Association of Architects, nor would it make sense for audio engineers who help musicians record their albums to be regulated by APEGA.

A software engineer is a globally recognized job title, and in order to compete for globally in-demand highly-skilled workers, Alberta companies need to be able to offer comparable job titles. We are asking the government to support a position that APEGA regulates the P.Eng certification, but allows space for companies to use industry standard job titles for roles outside the purview of APEGA.

In response to the groundswell of support we have seen for this common sense solution, APEGA has replied with scare tactics. APEGA would have you believe that the sanctity of the “engineer” title, as regulated by them, is necessary to protect public safety because pacemakers and self-driving cars use software. This idea falls apart under a bit of critical examination, though.

APEGA is not scrutinizing the code of Tesla vehicles with autopilot software, and is not checking to see whether the people who wrote that software in California held an engineering designation. If they did, they would find that Tesla’s “chief engineer” is Elon Musk, a man who never went to engineering school.

Responsibility for vehicle safety on Alberta roads falls to the Ministry of Transportation, and what matters is whether the vehicle will actually pose a danger to the public, not the job title of the professional who wrote the software. Similarly, pacemakers are regulated medical devices and it is the responsibility of Health Canada to ensure that they’re safe.

APEGA’s scare tactics are an attempt to distract from the reality that they are aggressively litigating against Alberta companies who develop software with no public safety implications. For example, APEGA has gone to court in its fight against Jobber, a company that makes an app for home services businesses, with no obvious threat to public safety.

For more than a year, we have been attempting to engage constructively with APEGA and the Alberta government on this issue. APEGA has been unwilling to seek a constructive solution, and the fact of the matter is that the Engineering and Geoscience Professions Act empowers them to take an expansive, litigious and rigid position.

As frustration is mounting among technology companies, Alberta risks earning a reputation as a jurisdiction that is hostile to innovation, where regulatory overreach and red tape prevent promising technology companies from competing on an equal footing against their peers.

Today, you can go to FreedomToInnovate.ca and see the list of leaders who have added their names to our open letter. If you do not act urgently, you may soon be looking at a list of leaders who have chosen to move their business, or simply expand their operation in satellite offices in jurisdictions away from APEGA’s legal threats.

At your earliest convenience, we would like to meet with you and Premier Smith to discuss this matter further, and talk about how we can develop a constructive solution that protects the P.Eng designation while leaving Alberta’s world class technology companies with the freedom to innovate.

Sincerely,
Benjamin Bergen
President \ Président
Council of Canadian Innovators \ Conseil Canadien des Innovateurs

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Council of Canadian Innovators

CCI is Canada’s 21st century business council, advocating for our country’s high-growth, innovative companies. Visit CanadianInnovators.org to learn more.