ALS News - From the Editor - How Do We Know?

Brian Munday, Executive Director

Is the ALSA a good regulator?
Of course we are!
How do we know?
Just ask us. We’ll tell you.
I recently had a conversation with a member that went something along those lines. We must be a good regulator. Our name isn’t in the news. The government hasn’t launched a special investigation into the Alberta Land Surveyors’ Association. We must be doing our job!
But, again, how do we know?
In this day of increased public scrutiny, more data at our fingertips, skepticism about “old boys clubs” and 13% of Canadians believing that Bill Gates is using microchips to track people and affect human behaviour (source:, just telling the public and government overseers that we are doing a good job isn’t going to cut it anymore.
Sometimes this is called “metrics.” In the sporting world, it is often called “analytics.” In hockey, there is now a statistic that calculates the portion of time a player plays with their own team’s best players. In baseball, there is more talk about exit velocity and angle of elevation than there is old-fashioned batting averages.
The point is that society has become accustomed to more data being available than ever before and some of the data being looked at can be pretty obscure.
It can be fun to look at (and discuss and argue about) sports statistics as we make bets about the over/under while enjoying a beverage of sociable nature.
It gets more serious when we start looking at critical day-to-day living. Inflation was how much last month? Who has the highest gasoline prices? The price of strawberries went up again?
How long do I have to wait to renew my passport? How early do I need to get to the passport office? How many family doctors are taking on new patients? How long is it going to take before I can see a specialist?
These are serious questions and we expect governments to set performance targets to meet so that governments and the individuals implementing their policies can be held accountable.
It is what happens in the private sector. A realtor might have a sales target they are expected to meet. A project manager has a deadline to complete a project. How often does the project manager complete their projects on time? A CEO is expected to meet budget. It is all about accountability.
This mindset is now coming to the professional regulatory organization world.
Governments are now setting targets for professional regulatory organizations to make decisions on registration decisions.
The registration committee must, within 120 days after the receipt by the registrar of a complete application, consider the application, make a decision under section 68 and notify the applicant of the decision.”
Are we meeting that 120 day deadline? Yes but…
… now we need to track that data. We also need to provide the government with the minimum, average and maximum times for making such a decision. And the data needs to broken down amongst applicants who received their qualifications in Alberta and those who received their qualifications internationally.
This is just one part of the government’s 34-page questionnaire that needs to be completed as part of the requirements under the Fair Registration Practices Act. It’s legitimate to ask whether they are asking the right questions or not but the point is that we need to start tracking data in ways that we have never needed to do so before.
The same analysis could be applied to the complaint and discipline process. How many complaints are made against sole practitioners versus those who work for larger companies? How many complaints are made for unskilled practice versus unprofessional conduct? How long does it take to complete an investigation? What is our target for the completion of investigations?
It is worthwhile to collect this data although it does take more time to track each of the components. It is, in my opinion, more defensible for us to say that complaint investigations were completed within the target time frame 86.2% of the time instead of “trust us, our in camera/closed to the public discipline process is doing a good job.”
In a similar vein, Council recently approved asking for proposals from potential consultants to get some data about the future demand and supply of land surveyors and survey technologists in Alberta. What is the demand for Alberta Land Surveyors projected to look like in ten years? How many Alberta Land Surveyors are projected to be working in Alberta in ten years based on current trends? Is there an imbalance in the supply and demand? If so, can existing post-secondary educational institutions meet that demand? If not, what are the alternatives?
We need data so we can understand if there truly is an imbalance and, if there is, work toward a solution that will actually solve the problem.
Does the hockey team really need to sign a free agent goalie if the team defence is giving up more shots on goal than anyone else in the league? (Edmonton Oilers fans, that’s only a hypothetical question!)
Where do we go from here?
Let’s set targets (besides the ones the government already sets for us) that will enhance the public’s confidence in us as a regulator.
Let’s capture the data so we can measure whether we have met the targets or not.
Let’s make the data available for all to see – both when we meet the targets and when we don’t.

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The Alberta Land Surveyors' Association (ALSA) is a self-regulating professional association legislated under the Land Surveyors Act. The Association regulates the practice of land surveying for the protection of the public.