The Alberta Fair Registration Practices Act is proclaimed in force on March 1, 2020, to speed up the process of newcomers getting their credentials recognized so they can work in the careers they trained for, and remove unfair barriers.
This new law,
- provides the authority to create a Fair Registration Practices Office
- reduces the red tape associated with the assessment of foreign credentials
- works with regulators to ensure registration practices are transparent, objective, impartial and fair
- maintains Alberta’s high professional standards
The organizations that are subject to the legislation include all colleges governed under the Health Professions Act, the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists, Alberta Institute of Agrologists, Law Society of Alberta, Chartered Professional Accountants of Alberta, Real Estate Council of Alberta and many other professional regulatory bodies. The legislation also applies to certain ministries that are responsible for assessing the credentials of professionals and workers in some industries.
Effective March 1, Regulatory bodies are required to:
- assess applications and communicate assessment decisions within specific timeframes for interim registration decisions and within
- reasonable timeframes for final registration decisions
- submit reports regarding fair registration practices to the Minister of the act
The fair registration practices office will work with trade and professional licensing bodies to streamline, simplify and accelerate foreign credential recognition, with the goal of giving applicants for licensure an interim decision within six months or less of their application. The UCP government also promised a $2.5 million budget for the fair registration practices office in the 2019 budget.
Professional regulatory bodies have an obligation to cooperate with reviews and audits, and failure to cooperate constitutes an offence. The new law establishes a number of other offences, including the failure to submit a report to the Minister when requested to do so, providing false or misleading information in a report or failing to comply with a compliance order. Individuals convicted of an offence may be subject to a maximum fine of $25,000 and corporations may be fined up to $50,000.
Some of the key elements of the legislation will be set out in the Regulation, including the maximum time period for issuing a Registration Decision, the training that decision-makers must receive before assessing qualifications of applicants and audit standards and scope of audits. Regulation and the fair registration practices office will be in place before March 1.
Why the need for the Fair Registration Practices Act?
The government has stated that they “heard from many newcomers who are underemployed and unable to contribute to our economy at their skill level. All too often this is because they are waiting for months, even years for their credentials to be recognized. This delay not only impacts newcomers to our province; it also hurts our economy. We are inviting skilled immigrants to Alberta because their skills are in demand, and then due to unnecessary delays, these skilled newcomers are not able to get to work in their profession. By introducing this legislation, we will create a win-win situation for newcomers as well as Alberta as their skills help to grow and diversify our economy.”
The government hopes that this new law will speed up the process where possible, maintain high professional standards, and increase fairness and transparency. This is a key part of the fairness for newcomers plan to reduce red tape, reignite the economy and return Albertans back to work.
This new law is similar to legislation enacted in Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia that requires professional regulatory organizations to ensure their registration practices are transparent, objective, impartial and fair.
Impact on Regulatory bodies
Many professional regulatory bodies see that their actions will be under increased scrutiny with the enactment of this legislation. Regulators can no longer simply state that their registration practices are transparent, objective, impartial and procedurally fair. They will have to prove it.
Meeting these standards will present challenges for all professional regulatory bodies, which will need to deploy appropriate resources to review their registration practices and determine where their practices may be falling short and what changes may be required. In addition, once the legislation is proclaimed, professional regulatory bodies will be required to participate in reviews and audits, implement changes depending on the outcome of the review or audit, and comply with additional reporting requirements.
As a result of these changes, professional regulatory bodies may need to shift their priorities and re-deploy existing resources in order to meet their obligations.