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President's Prose - February 2019 Issue

Besides being one of the coldest months on record, this past February was also memorable for the vast amount of activity that staff and members of ALSA were able to squeeze into 28 short days! As the Council year winds down, not only is planning and implementation in high gear for the upcoming AGM but many committees are also finalizing deliverables outlined in their terms of reference. One such committee is the Corner Recordation Index Working Group that has completely reimagined the Corner Recordation Index and is ready to roil out the results to the membership. Council got a demonstration at our March meeting and it will go live shortly.

The Alternate Funding Ad Hoc Committee has also been busy finalizing their work in preparation for a vote at AGM. This vote will be for approval in principle only of a digital stamp. The details are yet to be determined- that would be the work for next year's committee if the motion is approved- but the concept is for a secure, unique digital identifier to be attached to each survey product. The intention is that the digital stamp will require minimal time and cost on the part of ALS’ and their staff.

This proposal is the result of years of analysis and business case research into an alternate revenue stream that is managed and controlled by ALSA. Alternate Funding does not replace membership fees, but it does cushion some of expected increases. It supplements our existing sources of revenue and replaces some of the monies from the ministerial order. I look forward to spirited discussion but ultimately hope that members see merit in taking this proposal to the next step.

Five days into the month, Executive Director Brian and I met with former Surveyor General Peter Sullivan and PSC Chair Hal Janes to discuss their proposed workshop for the 2019 National Surveyors Conference. Citing the rapid advance of technology, the evolving perception of expertise and the scrutiny of professions, Peter and Hal have constructed a workshop to spark national dialogue amongst the entire community of geomatics professionals. And they want Alberta’s support and participation. While the timing couldn’t be worse- the NSC will be held in Halifax the week after our AGM in Banff - Council has endorsed full participation by senior members of Council.

The ALS staff rolled out the new website on February 12th and it is a welcome improvement. The home page is cleaner looking and the page headings more intuitive. If you haven’t yet logged on, take a look and I think you’ll be impressed.

The Ontario Land Surveyors AGM was held the last week in February. While travelling to Toronto is never my favourite thing to do, going there the night after the Leafs thumped the Oilers was even less inviting ! Arrgghh! That said, the AGM was a good one with lots on the go.

The AOLS welcomed 25 new surveyors, the largest class of new surveyors in about 20 years. While their membership is now above 500 for the first time in  five years, they do have demographic challenges; 75% of the membership is over the age of 50. I paid close attention to the discussion and subsequent approval of their transparency policy as I feel that this is the direction all professional regulatory organizations are heading. Quite simply, it states that all actions and decisions of AOLS are open to the public, including publishing statistics and details of all complaints registered against a member. You heard right: that is complaints lodged, not decisions of the discipline committee. The intention of the policy is to meet the public's demand for accountability and allowing them to make better informed choices when selecting a professional.

The meeting was also notable for the absence of long-time AOLS Registrar Bill Buck; newly installed Registrar Kevin Wahba took the reins in January. Another new “face” was the introduction of incoming Executive Director Brian Maloney. If there was a highlight to the meeting however, it wasn’t at the conference: Cansel sponsored an afternoon of hockey (immediately prior to Presidents Ball!) and I played hockey on a line with my brother at Maple Leaf Gardens.

As spring approaches I watch the economic indicators within the province nervously. According to a recent CBC News study, the recession ended in late 2016 and the recovery really hit its stride in 2017. Alberta led the country in economic growth that year, as jobs returned, wages rose and unemployment declined. There was ample evidence things were getting better.

Still, the sense lingered that "recovery" wasn't the right word for what we were experiencing. We had not yet regained what was lost and there was evidence that things might never be the same as they once were. Even that upward momentum now seems at risk. If 2017 was a strong year, 2018 was anemic. And the early economic indicators of 2019 have been less than encouraging so far. The collapse of oil prices has been felt on many personal levels, but the impact has also been collective. In the span of a few years, the province went from collecting nearly $10 billion in annual royalty revenues to running $10-billion deficits. That fuels the downright hostility and anger that bubbles to the surface in any discussion of provincial or national politics. It isn’t an easy time for a lot of Albertans, many surveyors included.

Alberta remains an energy-industry province but there appears to be a dawning awareness that the industry has entered a whole new era. My expectation is that as surveyors we will respond to these industry changes through innovation and application of advanced technologies, as we have repeatedly in the past. Let us recognize the future while remembering our past.

I look forward to continuing the conversation at the upcoming regional group meetings.

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