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Professional Engineers Ontario and the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers

What is the difference between the two organizations?

Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) has been delegated authority from the government to protect the public interest, safety and well-being through licensing and regulation of the practice of professional engineering. A public-interest organization must place the general interests of the largest portion of the population (in this case, all citizens of Ontario) at the forefront of any debate, lobby activity, or service provision.

The Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE) is the advocacy and member services organization formed by Ontario engineers to promote their professional and economic interests. A member-interest organization must place the unique interests of one particular segment of the population (in this case, Ontario’s more than 73,000 professional engineers) at the forefront of any debate, lobby activity, or service provision.

Why are two separate organizations needed?

As is the case with medicine and law, the public needs a strong regulatory body that will ensure the highest standards of practice among engineering practitioners.

As is the case with medicine and law, the engineering profession needs a body that can respond to the concerns of its members and represent their interests.

How were the organizations formed?

In 1922, the Ontario government passed the first Professional Engineers Act, which created PEO. An exclusive scope of practice, right to practise, or licence, was created for members of PEO in 1937 when the Professional Engineers Act was first revised.

OSPE was created jointly by PEO and the Canadian Society of Professional Engineers (CSPE). The creation of the Society was the result of a debate throughout the 1990s to separate regulatory and non-regulatory affairs for the profession, culminating in a referendum of PEO members in 2000 that found 80 per cent support among voters for starting a separate advocacy organization. OSPE became a legal entity in April 2000.

How are the organizations funded?

PEO is funded primarily through the fees it charges to fulfill its regulatory mandate (e.g. annual licences, examinations, registration, designation, certificate of authorization, etc.). PEO also receives non-fee revenue from such activities as publication advertising, sponsorship of special events, interest on investments, etc.

The 2000 referendum, subsequently approved by the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, saw licence holders vote to allow PEO to raise its annual fees and pass a portion of that increase along to OSPE to fund its work. This funding amounted to $30 per active licensed engineer annually for the period from January 2001 to December 2003.

PEO also transferred non-regulatory programs to OSPE. These programs’ funding was transferred with them during the transition period. This includes initiatives like the Employment Advisory Service and the coordination of the Ontario portion of National Engineering Week.

In the three-year transition period (January 1, 2001 to December 31, 2003), the Society received the following funding through PEO:$30 of the licensing fee paid by all active (i.e. non-fee remission) licence holders was transferred to OSPE in monthly increments (approximately $1,600,000 each year). This reflected the results of the 2000 referendum (subsequently endorsed by the Ontario Attorney General) in which licence holders voted to allow a fee increase and have a portion of that increase flow to the Society.As non-regulatory programs were transferred to OSPE from PEO, the funds that used to support these programs at PEO were remitted to OSPE (approximately $200,000 per year). At OSPE’s start, a one-time grant of 10 per cent of unrestricted equity in the PEO reserves was transferred to OSPE(approximately $950,000).In total, these three sources of revenue contributed approximately $6,300,000 to OSPE over the three-year transition period.

Today, transitional funding to OSPE has ceased, and it is funded by its membership fees, revenue from its affinity programs (e.g. insurance, products and services), professional development programs and other non-regulatory activities.

What is the mandate of each organization?

The principal mandate of PEO is to regulate the practice of engineering in Ontario in the public interest and to govern licence holders, holders of Certificates of Authorization, holders of temporary licences, holders of provisional licences and holders of limited icences in accordance with the Professional Engineers Act, Regulation 941, and the bylaws in order that the public interest is served and protected. [Professional Engineers Act, section 2(3)]

Under the Professional Engineers Act, PEO licenses Ontario’s 73,000 professional engineers, grants limited, temporary, and provisional licences, and permits 4100 firms to offer engineering services to the public under Certificates of Authorization, to serve and protect the public interest.

PEO also disciplines professional engineers, other licence holders and firms that fail to maintain the profession’s technical and ethical standards, and prosecutes in the Courts those practising professional engineering without a licence, or using a term, title or designation that may lead others to believe they are entitled to practise.

PEO’s additional objects are set out in section 2(4) of the Act.

The principal mandate of OSPE is to promote the professional and economic interests of professional engineers in Ontario by advocating on behalf of the profession, offering member services, and providing opportunities for professional development.

What are the eligibility criteria for joining each organization?

To become licensed by PEO, applicants must:

  • be at least 18 years old;
  • meet education standards established by PEO;
  • pass the Professional Practice Exam (PPE) on engineering law and ethics;
  • meet engineering experience requirements established by PEO; and
  • pay the required licensing fee(s).

Retired professional engineers may apply to pay a reduced fee, but are still considered full members in good standing on PEO’s register. Students currently enrolled in a CEAB-approved program of engineering study may join a PEO Student Membership Program that aims to foster closer links between the association and students and to increase understanding of licensure. There is no fee to join the student program. Those who have met PEO’s academic requirements for licensing, but who do not yet have the required engineering experience for licensure, may apply to participate in PEO’s Engineering Internship program.

To qualify for membership in one of OSPE’s membership categories, individuals must be one of the following:

  • A professional member is a professional engineer licensed by PEO;
  • A student member is a student currently enrolled in a CEAB-approved program of engineering study in Ontario;
  • An intern member is a person currently enrolled in PEO’s Engineering Internship Training (EIT) program – or a graduate of a CEAB-accredited engineering program; or
  • An associate member is a professional engineer licensed outside Ontario but within Canada.

Until December 31, 2003, all engineers licensed in Ontario were considered “sustaining members” of OSPE and received all of the benefits of membership, with the exception that they could not sit on OSPE’s Board and could not attend the Annual General Assembly.

As of January 1, 2004, engineers must pay the full OSPE membership fee to maintain their status as “professional members”.

How is each organization governed?

In granting self-governance to the engineering profession, the provincial government has delegated legislative and judicial functions to PEO. Under powers conferred to it by the provincial government, PEO sets standards for, and regulates the practice of, engineering in Ontario in order to serve and protect the public. Council is the governing body of PEO and is accountable to the provincial government through the Ministry of the Attorney General for administering the affairs of the association and fulfilling the requirements of the Professional Engineers Act. It is also expected that PEO Council will bring proposals to the Ontario government that will ensure that the public interest remains protected as the practice of engineering changes.

A Council of up to 29 people, 24 of whom are professional engineers and five of whom are members of the public, governs PEO. A maximum of 12 members of Council (seven professional engineers, five non-engineers) are appointed by the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. The remaining 17 are elected by members, including representatives from each of five provincial regions.

A nine-member Board of Directors, each of whom is elected to a three-year term by OSPE members, governs OSPE. All members of the Board are Professional Members of OSPE and, as such, are professional engineers licensed by PEO.

It is the role of the Society's Board of Directors to govern OSPE. The principal responsibilities of the Board of Directors include:

  • ensuring adherence to OSPE's policies, strategic plan and by-laws;
  • ensuring that OSPE's finances are in order;
  • making informed decisions in a timely fashion regarding policies, strategic direction and specific advocacy positions;
  • seeking consensus in decision making, to the extent practical; and
  • ensuring that the best individual is hired to provide leadership in a Chief Executive Officer capacity and to support that individual in his or her responsibility to implement decisions of the Board.

What is the nature of the relationship between PEO and OSPE?

PEO and OSPE are separate legal entities. The obligations of each organization to the other are outlined by an Accord approved by PEO Council and by the OSPE Board and are refined further by ongoing communication and cooperation between the respective organizations and their staffs.

What programs were transferred from PEO to OSPE?

  • Employment Advisory Service
  • Ontario Engineering Competition
  • National Engineering Week
  • Benevolent fund (administrative support)
  • Programs of the Women in Engineering Advisory Committee

The Ontario Professional Engineers Awards is a joint program.

More Information