By Frank Kurz

In this time of fiscal constraint, paring one’s budget to essential expenses is both prudent and responsible.  You can’t, after all, continue spending money you don’t have on luxuries.  Everyone (individuals and Governments alike) must identify those expenses deemed essential and ensure adequate provision for their continued survival is provided.  You can’t live without heat, light, food or water.  A Government can’t function without rules and regulations to safeguard its citizens, and without someone to maintain those rules.  We call these individuals regulators (and Police too).

The recent spate of budgetary restructuring announcements by the City of Vancouver has crossed the fine line separating “the reasonable” from “the unreasonable” with the serving of layoff notices to several of the city’s inspectors and regulators.  Compromising the safety of its citizens isn’t something the Council (or the city’s management) should even be considering, yet this is exactly what they are doing.  We are already experiencing phenomenal growth in new construction and the expected spin-off from our Olympic Exposure will only ensure more (at least according to the rhetoric heard from city and Provincial officials at every media opportunity).  Vancouver's Inspections Department is the finest in the country, made up of the professional elite in the electrical, structural, mechanical, and building disciplines.  The city enjoys a reputation for building safety that is second to none yet here we are on the verge of seriously undermining all that (if we haven’t already done so).

What makes the abrupt dismissal of Arkady Tsisserev by the City of Vancouver so puzzling is that here we have an individual who is internationally recognised as a leader in the fields of electrical and life safety, who has suddenly been cast off in the same callous manner as one would throw out the garbage.

Ark Tsisserev arrived on the shores of this great country in 1978 with his wife, Isabel and family, and little more in the way of possessions than two precious degrees in Electrical Engineering, a Masters and a Ph.D., from the Ukraine.  His first brush with regulators came when he attempted to obtain his engineering equivalency from the Province of Manitoba’s Professional Engineers Association.  Ark was certainly not the first immigrant with an advanced degree who failed to breach the many protectionism barriers North American professional associations erect to keep out the "riff-raff".  Unlike many who choose to pursue alternate careers as taxi drivers, cooks, and gas station attendants however, Ark got down to the business of working on his dream of Canadian accreditation.  He achieved that goal when he obtained his Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Manitoba and he hasn’t looked back since.

Ark’s second brush with regulators came in 1983 when he was hired by the City of Winnipeg as a plan designer and checker moving up through the ranks quickly to become section head of the electrical department in 1984.  Oh, I forgot to mention that he started in another very rewarding aspect of his career in 1982 when he became a teaching assistant at the University of Manitoba.  He’s taken on the mantle of teacher on many occasions.  In fact, it’s during one of the electrical and emergency systems seminars he pioneered that I had the singular privilege of meeting him for the first time.  That was in 1996; Ark had joined the City of Vancouver and been appointed the City Electrician three years before.


Editorial Archives

February, 2010



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Our mutual passion for life safety and his generous, uncomplicated and open manner has made for some very interesting debates and discussions, but through all of the time I’ve both known and worked with Ark, his commitment and energy has always remained focussed on making Vancouver the safest city in the world (indeed this includes all of the cities in all of the Provinces and Territories of our great nation).  I recently took the time to read through the first few pages of the Canadian Electrical Code (2009).  If you have a few moments, I would suggest you do the same. Ark Tsisserev’s name appears in practically every committee and subcommittee you care to name (dozens of them).  Is it any wonder that when the City demanded he immediately remove his personal possessions from his office, he could do little but stand there and ask “how”?  If you’ve ever been in Ark’s office, the chair he would ask you to sit in would have to be dug out from under a mountain of paper, books, manuals, trade publications and magazines.

On his many trips across North America while engaged on City (and the various committees he chaired) business, he once told me that his voice mail could only handle fifty messages and that he would have to start taking them off when he boarded the plane or the inbox would be full by the time he arrived at his destination.  Yet even with these efficiencies, he still felt guilty on occasion for not being able to answer the phone personally.  When I'd email him, I quite often found responses the next morning which he would have had to have sent at 1:00 or 2:00 AM from his hotel room.  A Google search on his name will yield dozens of links to articles he’s published which begs the question: “Does this man ever sleep?”

Ark was Vancouver’s ambassador to the world long before the Olympic Dream fired John Furlong’s, our Premier's, and Mayor's imaginations.  His contribution to the international electrical and life safety communities cannot be measured by anything less than the Gold Standard and will leave a legacy that’s even far more precious and enduring...  Which is why it puzzles this writer that a city renown for tolerance, generosity, fairness, and beauty could treat one of its most prized citizens in such a callous and demeaning manner on the very eve of the greatest celebration we’ll ever witness.

A good deal of this editorial comment has seemed to focus on one individual, but there are literally hundreds that are deeply affected by what’s happening.  The Bottom Line here is that Vancouver City Council and Mayor Gregor Robertson have some explaining to do.  They also have to set some things right if they expect to restore the confidence of the public and the taxpayer.  If the decision to plant a bunch of hothouse tulips means you have to lay off an inspector, you've made a poor fiscal choice and you've put the people that count (and vote) at risk.

More on Ark’s Dismissal (and the fallout):

March 2010 Tech-News Story!
March 2010 Editorial
Our 2011 Editorial


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