September 4, 2012

Checking in on your knowledge of the public interest

Administrative Law
Professional Regulation

Whether you are a member of a self-regulating profession or a staff member from a regulatory body overseeing such a profession, you will likely have heard the phrase on more than one occasion that “self-regulation is a privilege and not a right” or been told that your College is there to “serve the public interest”. These key maxims sound simple enough in theory, but in practice they can sometimes be confusing to apply.

In particular, it can be difficult to determine what activities can be accurately characterized as being in the public interest, and for most self-regulating professional bodies this will be essential to determining whether or not you are authorized to undertake such an action. With the exception of a few rare professions that have been statutorily granted a dual mandate to serve both the public and the profession’s interests, most self-regulating professions are restricted to acting in the public’s interest alone. The profession’s interests instead will most often be served by a professional association such as the Canadian Bar Association or the Canadian Medical Association. And even in the case of self-regulating professions that have a dual mandate, like the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC, this mandate will typically require that the public interest remains paramount over the professional interest.

In this blog entry, we would like to test your “public interest IQ” with a few questions that pit the public interest against the professional interest. To test yourself, please identify whether the proposed activity falls into the public interest mandate of a regulatory body or whether it is an activity more properly conducted by a professional association with a mandate to serve its members’ interests. In certain circumstances, your answer may be that both bodies might conduct the proposed activity. If that is the case, ask yourself why.

A Short Self Test

Public interest? Professional interest? Both?

1)      Providing discounted rates for home and life insurance.

2)      Setting requirements for minimum professional insurance coverage.

3)      Advocating for the provincial government to expand the profession’s scope of practice.

4)      Providing an employment listing service for members.

5)      Providing courses for members on significant issues of dealing with diversity in the practice of the profession.

6)      Setting requirements for courses to be completed by members.

7)      Providing standard forms for the collection of patient/client information for members.

8)      Creating a mentorship program to pair new members with experienced practitioners.

9)      Providing information to the provincial government with respect to the availability of the profession’s services in rural areas of the province.

Our next blog will set out our answers to this quick test.

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