Engineering in Politics

Author: Kelsey Crawford

To begin with I just wanted to give some background for this conference. The name of it is Professional Engineers of Ontario Student Conference. It is aimed mainly at upper year students in order to prepare them for entering the industry. The main theme of the conference is professional development, but also since PEO runs the conference there is always a large focus on the P. Eng, and everything you can do with it. PEO this year decided to talk about all the options outside of typical engineering that the P. Eng offers. Jeannette Chau from PEO gave a great talk about using your P. Eng to go into politics.

There is always talk about mixing engineering in business or even engineering and law at Western University. However, there has not been much discussion about the importance of engineering in politics. Currently as it stands, only 2 MPPs are engineers, and only 6 MPs are engineers. The two engineers at the provincial level are Jim McDonell, and Jack Maclaren. At the national level a great example of engineers in politics is Marilyn Gladu who is originally from Sarnia, Ontario and started out as a chemical engineer. The main question is why are people from other professions trying to make the law guarding the practice of engineering? At the end of the day a major issue is having lawyers or politicians, discuss certain policies that require a certain level of technical understanding. Something that the Professional Engineers of Ontario have been working on is increasing the amount of engineering representation we have across Canada. They have really been promoting this topic by encouraging current PEO members to run for positions on their local riding, as well as inviting current engineering students to attend a banquet with the MPPS at Queen’s Park.

The main reasons that engineers are believed to thrive in politics is the following:

  • Great problem solves

  • Know how to put the public needs above everything else

  • Realize that every action is part of a bigger picture

  • Are accustomed to dealing with complex issues

As the current VP External of Western niversity I find this topic very important, because I have spent the past semester dealing with engineering policy at the undergraduate level. We discuss how to best advocate for engineering students across Canada, as well as discuss issues such as how our programs are accredited. I took it upon myself to talk to Jeannette who presented and asked her about how to get involved. She was able to give me very good advice, which I hope I can use later in my career and can share with all of you. The first step to take is to decide which party your values align with. Once you have figured that out, it is a great idea to go to the local riding and help volunteer there. One thing Jeannette mentioned was that it would be great to help them on their door to door campaigning, in order to get a feel for what it would be like doing it yourself. If at that point you decided it wasn’t for you then you would at least know before getting too invested. These were some of the suggestions she had for being a young engineer hoping to be involved with politics. Another great step as a student is to get the PEO and Ontario Society of Professional Engineer’s student membership. This way you can remained involved and get updates for all the news in the profession. Although it is great to get involved at a young age, she made a point of emphasizing the importance of being able to leverage your technical career, which is why many engineers get involved in politics later in their career.