Christine Zwozdesky, Chair
As I reflect on RECA’s accomplishments during my year as Chair, I can’t help but come back to the same question: what is RECA’s role as the regulator?
It may seem like a strange question coming from someone who has sat on Council for four years, but as a public member, I feel I have a unique perspective. Self-regulated industries have been in the news recently for all of the wrong reasons, and I believe it’s an appropriate time to ask this question.
RECA administers the Real Estate Act on behalf of the Government of Alberta. Through that Act and the accompanying industry standards, Council regulates Alberta’s real estate industry professionals, therefore protecting consumers. Full stop. RECA protects consumers. That’s our role as the regulator. But we can’t do it – and we don’t do it – without help and cooperation from the industry. This is what being part of a self-regulating profession requires.
Much of Council’s work over the years has had an outward focus. How is the industry operating? What education is appropriate? Are consumers aware of RECA’s mandate?
In a bit of a shift this year, Council worked to balance the scales. We searched for answers by looking inward. How are we regulating? Are our regulatory processes working for the benefit of consumers while ensuring fairness for industry professionals? Are we open and transparent? Are we engaging with and listening to our stakeholders? And fundamentally, are we fulfilling our role as the regulator?
In the past year, Council has taken steps to answer these questions. Here’s how:
How do we engage with stakeholders?
This has been a major focus of Council’s work this year. Council approved the Stakeholder Engagement Policy in October 2015, and more recently, the Stakeholder Engagement Implementation Plan. The engagement policy ensures transparent engagement with all stakeholders. As part of that policy, we publish a list of all stakeholder engagement activities.
This year RECA approved its 2016-2020 Strategic Plan that builds critical success factors around our varied stakeholders. As we work to fulfill that plan, we are committed to ensuring open, two-way communication with all of our stakeholders.
Do our regulatory processes adequately protect consumers while ensuring fairness for industry professionals?
RECA engaged Field Law to conduct a third-party review of its regulatory performance as part of its commitment to ongoing performance improvement, and to help ensure continued fulfillment of its consumer protection mandate. Field Law concluded RECA is a ‘high performing regulator’ that meets or exceeds all of the assessment criteria, but also made several recommendations for continuous improvement. Council accepted all the recommendations and many are already underway or completed. Read more on page XX of the Regulator.
Are we considering all stakeholders?
RECA committees have typically focused on industry sectors or RECA’s own operations in the case of the Hearings or Governance Committees. As we spent time this year looking at the way in which we fulfill our mandate, we realized consumers need a greater voice. To reflect that, Council is creating a Consumer Advisory Committee to ensure consumers have voice in the regulation of Alberta’s real estate professionals.
RECA must be masters of balance. The perspectives and interests of all our stakeholders are equally valid, and equally define RECA’s role. A professional, competent industry who adheres to appropriate standards leads to more protected consumers. A knowledgeable, prepared public, leads to higher expectations and an improved industry. If we aim for this balance, all stakeholders are heard and all stakeholders benefit. And if we periodically peer inward to make sure we’re continuously improving, we will fulfill our role.
I’d like to thank my fellow Council members for a productive and engaging year on Council. I welcome incoming Chair, Christine Zwozdesky, and Chair Elect, Brian Klingspon, as well as four new Council members beginning their terms on November 1. I look forward to working with all of you this year.
Before signing off as Chair, I’d also like to thank the outgoing Council members. Gary Siegle, John Farmer, Angela Kolody, Stan Kushner, and Tony Dhaliwal who all diligently served the industry as Council members. Thank you for your dedication and service to self-regulation. It was a pleasure working with you.