Would you be surprised to learn that there were few rules governing the practice of engineering in the early beginnings of the province of Manitoba? It is not like Winnipeg was still the wild-wild west; but, the fact is Winnipeg experienced a fantastic boom during the 1890s and the first two decades of the 20th century, as the city's population grew from 25,000 in 1891 to more than 179,000 in 1921. What comes with such population growth? All kinds of changes and development! This fast paced growth was fueled by many private and public undertakings that would set the economic foundation for the province for many years to come. The river transportation system was making way for the railway transportation system.
In both phases of development, Winnipeg was a hub, and was looking more and more like the Chicago of the north. Many firsts and mega projects were constructed during this time including the Pinawa Generating Station, Union Bank Tower (sky scrapper), the James Avenue Pumping station, the St. Andrews Lock and Dam, the Pointe du Bois Generating Station, the 'Transcona (Canadian National) Railway Shops, the Shoal Lake Aqueduct and the provincial legislative building to name but a few.
This period provided many opportunities for wholly unqualified individuals to practice engineering required for these projects. There were some engineering challenges, like the Transcona P&H Grain elevator settlement problem; and, some scandals, like irregularities with the contracts associated with the construction of the provincial legislative building along the way. Although no major disasters occurred, the engineering community was concerned about faulty design and waste on some of these major projects.
Who was protecting the public?
We have to go way back to 1896 when the Manitoba Civil Engineer's Act was passed by the Manitoba Legislature. The first form of engineering governance in Canada, it restricted the practice of engineering in Manitoba to certain persons who were members of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers (the predecessor to the Engineering Institute of Canada). It turned out that the Act lacked the "administrative machinery" to enforce the restriction and as a result it was repealed in 1913.
So, following The Great War, 1914-1918, as the developments in Western Canada continued on a greatly accelerated pace, there was no law in place in Canada that governed the practice of engineering. There were several societies or associations across the country, like the Engineering Institute of Canada (EIC) and the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers, but their mandates were to facilitate continuing education and professional development and promote standards of education and training in the engineering community. The EIC branches across the country began to look into what steps needed to be undertaken to define engineering, and to set legal standards of qualifications for the safe practice of engineering, so that legal status could be provided to those who were registered to practice.
The problem was that the Dominion Government of Canada (as it was known at the time) did not possess authority to pass legislation of this nature until after there were enabling Acts on the statute books of each of the Provinces. So, Manitoba members of the EIC, working in concert with their colleagues across Canada, submitted a framework of the required enabling Act at a session of the 1920 Legislative of the Province of Manitoba. The group of engineers presented a petition praying for the incorporation of “The Association of Professional Engineers”. The Government of the day decided to sponsor a Public Bill, framed in such a way that it conformed very closely to the draft submitted with the petition. As a result, "An Act respecting the Engineering Profession" was passed, and assented on March 27, 1920. "The Association of Professional Engineers of the Province of Manitoba" became a body, politic and corporate, with perpetual succession and common seal (Chapter 38, Statutes of Manitoba, 1920).The Act conferred on the Association the power to make by-laws for management and administration, defined the practice of Professional Engineering and set out clearly who might practice as a Professional Engineer. It provided that each Registered Professional Engineer shall have an impression seal, and also named a Provisional Council of the Association to set up the organization.
The First Council
The Provisional Council, as enacted, were to provide the register called for by the Act, to enter therein the names of those entitled to registration and to call, within six months of the coming into force of the Act, the first General Meeting of the Association for those purposes or any other organization purposes of the Association. This Provisional Council was to have the powers conferred by the Act on Council of the Association. These powers were to cease on the election of the regular Council of the Association.
On April 9, 1920, the Provisional Council convened and W. M. Scott and G. L. Guy were elected Chairman and Secretary, respectively. On Monday, August 23, 1920, the Provisional Secretary was empowered to obtain and open a register for the registration of members. The form of the application and certificate of registration as used by "The Association of Professional Engineers of New Brunswick," with alterations to suit the requirements of the Manitoba Act, were adopted as official stationery of the Association. The Provisional Council met again September 25, 1920, and approved the applications of 168 Manitoba Engineers. The first General Meeting of the Association was held September 27, 1920, in the Engineering Building of the University of Manitoba located at the corner of Portage Avenue and Sherbrook Street, in the City of Winnipeg, with the Provisional Chairman, W. M. Scott, presiding. Seventy-one Registered Professional Engineers and five non-registered Engineers were present. The By-laws as prepared by the Provisional Council were reviewed and adopted, or amended and adopted, clause by clause.
The presiding officer then called for nominations of members for the first Council of the Association, to consist of seven members, the four receiving the highest number of votes to act until the Annual General Meeting in 1922, and the other three elected until the Annual General Meeting of 1921. In that year and subsequent alternate years, three members and in 1922 and subsequent alternate years, four members have been elected to Council for a term of two years. In all, seventeen were nominated and upon report of the scrutineers, M. A. Lyons, P. Burke-Gaffney, G. L. Guy and J. G. LeGrand were elected to serve until 1922, and A. W. Smith, D. A. Ross and W. P. Brereton until 1921.
As had become the established custom, the members elected to Council retired from the meeting to elect, from their number, the officers of the Association. Upon their return, they reported that the first regular officers were:
- M. A. Lyons, President
- J. G. LeGrand, Vice-President
- G. L. Guy, Secretary and Registrar
who with P. Burke-Gaffney, A. W. Smith, D. A. Ross and W. P. Brereton comprised the first Council of the Association. With the setting up of this Council, the Association began the business of administering the new act. (Note that the custom of the members of the Council retiring from the meeting to elect the officers ended in 1991. Since then the president-elect, i.e. the person who takes over in a year, is still elected by and from the Council. However, it is done in an open meeting of the Council.)
Based on A Short History of the Association of Professional Engineers of the Province of Manitoba, 1920-1945 by C. S.Landon Secretary-Treasurer and Registrar