Bill 11 – Fair Registration Practices Act
As noted in our previous alert, the United Conservative Party’s election platform included a promise to pass a Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act, modelled on similar legislation adopted by the Province of Ontario in 2006, which requires professional regulatory organizations to ensure that their registration practices are transparent, objective, impartial and fair. The UCP also promised to create a Fairness for Newcomers Office with a $2.5 million budget, with a mandate to work with trade and professional licensing bodies to streamline, simplify and accelerate foreign credential recognition.
On June 19, 2019, the UCP introduced Bill 11 – Fair Registration Practices Act in the legislature and quickly passed first reading. As anticipated, Bill 11 is similar to legislation enacted in Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia.
Application of Bill 11
Bill 11 applies to 72 different organizations and entities, listed in Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 of the Bill. The organizations that will be 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 will also apply to certain Ministries that are responsible for assessing credentials of professionals and workers in some industries.
Key Features of Bill 11
While a full description of Bill 11 is beyond the scope of this article, some of the key features of Bill 11 are summarized below.
- Regulatory bodies will be required to comply with the Fair Registration Practices Code, established in Part 1 of Bill 11. The Code imposes a general duty on regulatory bodies to carry out registration practices that are transparent, objective, impartial and procedurally fair.
- Regulatory bodies will be required to provide information about eligibility for registration and its registration processes to applicants and potential applicants in a clear and understandable manner. Information that must be made available includes: requirements for registration, how to apply for registration, the length of time it usually takes to become registered, and any fees relating to registration.
- “Interim registration decisions” with respect to an application for registration must be made within 6 months of receiving the application and all information required by the regulatory body in respect of the application. “Interim decision” is defined in s.1(1)(g) as any decision to register an applicant subject to a condition that must be met within a specified time, or a decision to defer registration until a specified requirement has been met.
- “Registration decisions” must be made within a “reasonable period of time” that does not exceed the maximum time limit established in the Regulations. “Registration decision” is defined in s. 1(1)(l) as any decision to register an applicant without conditions, refuse to register an applicant or register an applicant subject to conditions (other than conditions imposed for a specific period of time).
- There must be a process established for internal review or appeal of interim registration decisions and registration decisions.
- Individuals or committees that are responsible for assessing qualifications must receive training regarding their role, special considerations that apply in the assessment of applications, and the conduct of hearings. If a regulatory body uses a third party to assess qualifications, the regulatory body must take reasonable measures to ensure that the third party receives appropriate training.
- The Minister has very broad powers to review the registration and assessment practices of regulatory bodies, to make recommendations, and to conduct audits of registration practices and compliance with the Act. During an audit the Minister has broad authority to compel the production of information. While the Minister can conduct reviews and audits of registration and assessment practices, the Minister cannot become involved in an interim registration decision, registration decision, or internal review or appeal on behalf of an applicant.
- The Minister has the authority to issue a compliance order requiring a professional regulatory body to comply with the Act or Regulations. The Minister must give the professional regulatory body notice and the opportunity to make written submissions before issuing an order. Regulatory bodies can seek judicial review of a compliance order within 30 days.
- The Minister can establish a Fair Registration Practices Office to assist the Minister in fulfilling their duties under the Act.
- Regulatory bodies must submit a report to the Minister in the form and with the content required.
- Professional regulatory bodies have an obligation to cooperate with reviews and audits, and failure to cooperate constitutes an offence. Bill 11 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.
- Bill 11 provides the Lieutenant Governor in Council with broad authority to make Regulations. 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.
- Bill 21 also contains a paramountcy clause, which provides that if there is a conflict between Bill 11 and another enactment the provisions in Bill 11 will prevail.
On first reading, it appears that Bill 11 is substantially similar to Schedule 2 of Ontario’s Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 (which applies to all health regulators) and Ontario’s Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act (which applies to non-health regulators).
Impact of Bill 11
Bill 11 was introduced in the legislature eight months after the Government introduced Bill 21, which was proclaimed in force in November of 2018. Bill 21 introduced sweeping changes to the Health Professions Act, providing for more oversight and direction regarding how health regulatory colleges must address complaints of sexual abuse and sexual misconduct against patients. Bill 11 is another example of meta-regulation in the province of Alberta, with Government imposing increased regulatory requirements on professional regulatory bodies, and a further layer of oversight.
Once again, the actions of professional regulatory bodies will be under increased scrutiny. Regulators can no simply longer state that their registration practices are transparent, objective, impartial and procedurally fair, but 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, to implement changes depending on the outcome of the review or audit, and to 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 be able to meet their obligations.
Coming into Force
The Fair Registration Practices Act will come into force on proclamation. While the date of proclamation is currently unknown, Government must enact Regulations and the Fair Registration Practices Office must be set up before the legislation can be enacted. While it is unclear how quickly Government intends to move, we would expect regulatory bodies to be given some notice before the legislation is proclaimed in force.
What Can Regulatory Bodies Do To Get Ready?
Given that the focus of Bill 11 is on ensuring that registration processes are fair, object and transparent, professional regulatory bodies should spend some time conducting an internal assessment of their practices in order to identify priority areas where changes may need to be implemented.
Since Bill 11 is modelled on the Ontario legislation, professional regulatory organizations in Alberta may want to spend some time looking at the Ontario Fairness Commissioner’s website. The OFC publishes a significant amount of information that may be valuable to regulators, including a Registration Practices Assessment Guide and a publication entitled Conducting Entry to Practice Reviews: Guide for Ontario’s Regulatory Bodies.
Professional regulatory bodies should also look for opportunities to provide meaningful input to Government on the content of the Regulation, given that many requirements and obligations will be established in the Regulation, rather than the Act.
Save the Date
Field Law will be hosting a complimentary workshop at noon on Monday, September 16 to assist professional regulatory bodies in understanding Bill 11, their obligations, and how they can take steps towards implementing registration practices that are transparent, objective and fair. Check back for details or subscribe to our alerts to receive more information.