By Brett McKay
A who's who of Edmonton's tech community is part of a push from the Canadian Council of Innovators (CCI) urging Premier Danielle Smith to "remove the regulatory red tape" that the group says threatens to stunt innovation in Alberta's tech sector.
But those responsible for regulating engineers say the rules are in place for a reason, and it's not right to benefit from the prestige of the term "engineer" without living up to the responsibilities attached to it.
The title "engineer" is restricted across Canada by various regulatory bodies. In Alberta, the Engineering and Geoscience Professions Act sets out who can call themselves an engineer, and it establishes the legal power of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) to license, permit, and otherwise regulate the profession.
The CCI released an open letter to Smith on Oct. 14 charging that APEGA has "taken the aggressive position that software engineers must be regulated, and subject to onerous, restrictive, and unnecessary certification requirements."
"This regulatory red tape threatens to have a profound impact on the future of our company and ability to compete in a hyper-competitive talent market," Pillar told Taproot. "High-skilled workers are used to seeing the title 'software engineer,' because it is the long-established global standard title used by some of the largest and most desirable employers in the tech industry to describe the work of building software. If we are prevented from using these kinds of job titles, we cannot compete on a level playing field for talent."
Pillar's fellow signatories include founders such as Cory and Nicole Janssen of AltaML, Jeff Lawrence of Granify, and Michael Wilson of DrugBank; investors such as Kristina Milke of Sprout Fund, Zack Storms of Startup TNT, and Ray Muzyka of ThreshholdImpact; and leaders such as Cam Linke of the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii), Catherine Warren of Edmonton Unlimited, and Malcolm Bruce of Edmonton Global, among many others.
Gerard McDonald, the CEO of Engineers Canada, disagrees that the rules are needlessly restrictive. "It's not red tape. The title engineer is a protected title, that's protected in law, and it's been protected for over 100 years," he said.
Software companies "can hire whoever they want, they can pay them whatever they want, they can make their jobs as appealing as they want," he said. "But if they want to call these people engineers, they must be licensed and must be accountable for the work that they do."