EDMONTON: The Alberta government wants to ensure that foreign-trained professionals and tradespeople will be dealt with quickly when they seek accreditation to work in the province.
“We will remove unfair barriers while maintaining the high professional standards all Albertans have come to know and expect,” Labour Minister Jason Copping said Wednesday after tabling the proposed legislation.
“We’ve 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,” Copping said.
“This not only impacts newcomers to our province, it also hurts our economy.”
Copping’s bill would apply to all professional regulatory organizations in Alberta and would cover doctors, nurses, engineers, lawyers, accountants, architects, pharmacists, dentists, psychologists, paramedics, social workers, veterinarians, and electricians.
It proposes that a fair registration office be set up to work with the organizations and give interim decisions on accreditation within six months.
Final accreditation would come within a reasonable, though as yet undefined, period after that.
Professional bodies could be subject to audits or asked to report on their progress. Not doing so could result in a compliance order and, if that failed, there could be legal action and fines up to $25,000 for an individual and $50,000 for a corporation.
The office would implement a fair practices code mandating timely decisions, clear rules and access to records.
Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia already have similar laws.
Copping said if the bill passes, the start-up date for the program is tentatively set for the end of the year.
The bill follows through on Premier Jason Kenney’s election campaign promise to ensure that newcomers aren’t left waiting for long periods of time to see if their credentials will be recognized.
He has promised to set aside $2.5 million to create the office.
Kenney said he expects regulatory bodies will work with the government on this program, but said there will be consequences for those who don’t.
“I’m prepared as premier to use the legislative authority that we have to ensure that these professional bodies act responsibly,” said Kenney.
“(If) there are some professional authorities that are abusing their authority to erect unjustifiable barriers to registration and certification, then I will be prepared to remind them that we could de-designate them and create new regulatory bodies in their place.”
Kenney has also promised new programs to persuade foreign graduates trained in Alberta to stay and start businesses.
There are also plans for programs to fast-track and encourage immigrant entrepreneurs committed to starting businesses in rural areas.