The PEO Ruling on Bribery

January 6th, 2020

Recall our Complaint to the Professional Engineers of Ontario (PEO)?  Well, they have released their Ruling on PEO members’ practices of bribing of public and elected officials. 

In their limitless wisdom, the PEO has Ruled that there is nothing unprofessional or unethical about their members offering, paying, or receiving bribes. 

Is that shocking?  Are you shocked?  Electrified, perhaps?

We filed a complaint with PEO in March of last year, advising them of their members’ practice of paying money in trade for influence with Federal civil servants. 

Shortly after our filing, there was some email back-and-forth with the PEO Investigator.  In response to their questions, we noted that “through its handling of this issue PEO is advising whether in its view paying bribes is acceptable, professional conduct.”  They didn’t like that.  So they kept the Q&A going, trying to push us off the mark.  What PEO wants from any such Q&A is a response that could be interpreted to mean that the problem is anything other than PEO’s responsibility to deal with.  They want to hear that the whole issue is between CSA and certain PEO members, rather than between PEO and its members.  That way, PEO would be off the hook.

We were judicious in our responses; “The [Canadian Standards Association] CSA received money from [PEO] individuals and / or their employers to vote on legislative committees.  It was CSA that received the money to influence the law; it was the [PEO members] who directly or by proxy made the influence payments.  The accused are therefore liable as participants in money-for-influence transactions.”

We also noted that CSA had contacted PS Knight Co (that’s us), prior to starting their litigations against us, to offer us voting influence on CSA legislative committees.  In other words, we had first-hand experience with what CSA had offered the PEO members, it’s just that we didn’t pay the bribe whereas PEO’s people did.

Even though our PEO filing was fulsome, crammed with evidence including such hard-to-duck items as screen shots of CSA advertisements for pay to play influence, the PEO was positing in their questions that actually, you know, on sober reflection, maybe the evidence only looks really damning.

Trying to offset what PEO was up to, we replied that the submitted evidence unambiguously confirms the nature of these transactions as trades of money for influence.  We walked them through the evidence by then in their files, point by point.  We pointedly pointed out that “paying CSA enough money means that one gains non-public access to the legislative process, access to the working papers in the drafting of legislation during that drafting process, and secret access to the persons who actually draft the technical and legal text of legislation during the drafting process.”

What else would you call that?  Seriously folks, if that’s not bribery then what conduct would meet the definition?

But, in the PEO Ruling, we’re told that “In the Committee’s view, there is no evidence that supports [the allegation of] a ‘bribe’ or ‘money-for-influence,’ ‘criminal’ or ‘professional misconduct.’”

My friends, this is a really big deal.  The subject of engineering is almost always tied to public safety.  Think; bridges, stadiums and office buildings, transportation.  These are the projects PEO has now said are bribeworthy.  Engineers can pay for a few votes to change safety standards to thicken the margins of some construction project.  Companies can bribe engineers to cut a few corners.  Civil societies are supposed to be above this kind of thing.

Sadly, PEO has a history of great exertions to avoid noticing unprofessional conduct among its members.  It’s normal over there.

Recall that engineers in Canada are self-regulating.  That is, their professional associations handle complaints and disciplinary issues internally, the governments of Canada are trusting engineers to police themselves.

But acting against its own members is against PEO’s financial interest.  At any given time, there are about 79,000 PEO members.  A typical, non-student member pays $299.45 in PEO fees each year.  That nets PEO at least $23,656,550.00 annually.

With all that money at risk, it’s hardly surprising that PEO chose to Rule that bribery by PEO members maybe wasn’t such a bad thing.  Regular readers will recall our predictions of this result.

As we start 2020, the Courts have now Ruled -twice- that bribing of civil servants is legal in Canada, the RCMP has Decided that pay-to-play isn’t actionable at law, and now the engineering professions in Alberta and Ontario have aligned with the Department of Justice in their Rulings that the bribing of public and elected officials is honourable and professional conduct.  All this, folks, to protect corruption at CSA.

Well, now they’re on the record with this, and so are we.  Could be useful.