DCN ARCHIVES

June 16, 2009

FIDIC president calls for more ‘engagement’ by engineers

OTTAWA

The consulting engineering industry needs to become more engaged in the public arena if it is to exert real influence on government policies, says veteran Canadian engineer John Boyd, president of the International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC).

“I am not aware of a single government anywhere on the face of this earth that bothered to consult with the industry prior to plunging their countries into serious debt spending on shovel-ready infrastructure construction projects,” he said.

“Do you think governments would (instigate) spending on the medical system without consulting doctors or on the legal system, without consulting lawyers or police officers? I don’t think so. I think that is a sad statement.”

Boyd, who has more than 33 years of experience under his belt, told the annual general meeting of Consulting Engineers of Ontario the industry must to do a better job of making its expertise available to policy-makers on critical issues.

“As an industry, we have a lot of information that would be helpful to policy-makers but we don’t give it to them in a form that is really useful to them,” he said.

“I think we need to reach inside our heads and do a little adjustment to start thinking from the perspective of the client if we want to play the role of trusted adviser (to society) rather than doers of the bidding of government.”

Boyd said the industry for starters, needs to “make an attempt” to communicate with government policy-makers and opinion leaders via the mainstream media.

“I think we need to become reliable sources of information for the public media,” he said.

“There are lots of things that are far too important to allow politicians to decide on.”

Boyd, a senior principal in Mississauga-headquartered Golder Associates who took over the reins of FIDIC in September, 2007 said engineers could play a valuable role in becoming trusted advisers to society by focusing on areas of technical expertise.

“We also need to focus on things that will affect us,” he said.

“Issues of sustainable development and climate change will require a major shift in the way we do our work. We should be telling governments what to do about these issues.”

Boyd suggested that a start could be made by “picking a few targets” for in-depth research and then releasing the reports to the public.

“This is going to cost us a few bucks,” he said.

“But if we really want this role of trusted adviser to society, then we have to advise. We have to stand up in public and say things that are well researched and well thought out.”

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