Canada's Effort to Unify Accounting Bodies Seeing Mixed Results

By Frank Byrt

Canada's professional accountants' effort to unite its disparate certification bodies under a new national accounting body, the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada), is seeing mixed results. 
CPA Canada was officially established January 1 with the aim of unifying the accounting profession for Canada, which would include the issuance of the Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) designation. 
On its website, CPA Canada says its vision for the professional designation is: "To be the pre-eminent, internationally recognized Canadian accounting designation and business credential that best protects and serves the public interest."
CPA Canada, which has been in the project stage for several years, says "a single voice representing as many as 170,000 Canadian members would more effectively represent member interests with respect to domestic policy, legislation, and regulatory issues affecting the accounting profession."

Canadian CPA Certification Program

"By drawing on the best of existing programs, we will create the certification program needed to produce Canada's pre-eminent professional accountants. The new program will:

  • Be – and be recognized – as at least as rigorous as all current programs.
  • Require an undergraduate degree and specific subject area coverage for admission to the professional education program.
  • Include a graduate-level professional education program developed nationally and delivered regionally.
  • Culminate in a comprehensive multi-day common final evaluation.
  • Include a part time, accelerated bridging program to appeal to the broadest possible group of potential candidates.
  • Appeal to employers for its development of accountancy and business skills in a high quality, cost effective professional program.
  • Meet or exceed the requirements of the leading global accounting bodies, ensuring the new profession can maintain existing, and establish, new Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs)."
Source: CPA Canada
Currently, Canada has over forty independent accounting bodies across its ten provinces and three territories.
A sixteen-member board of directors has been established for CPA Canada and includes regional representatives as well as representation from the accounting organizations participating in the unification.
CPA Canada says a Canadian CPA certification program is being developed that "will consist of: 
  • Academic prerequisites for admission to the CPA professional education program. 
  • A graduate level CPA professional education program. 
  • Evaluations, including a common comprehensive final evaluation. 
  • Relevant practical experience."
The CPA Canada board has appointed Kevin Dancey, FCPA, FCA, as president and CEO of CPA Canada. He and Joy Thomas, FCMA, who assumes the role of executive vice president, will lead the new national organization. 
Dancey told AccountingWEB that the CPA designation awarded in Canada will be "substantially equivalent" to that of a certified public accountant, or CPA, in the United States.
But there is discord in the unification process, as only two of the three national accounting bodies – Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA) and Certified Management Accountants of Canada (CMA Canada) – are supporting CPA Canada. The third national accounting organization, Certified General Accountants of Canada (CGA-Canada), dropped out of the unification discussions after initially taking part in the process. 
CGA-Canada President and CEO Anthony Ariganello told AccountingWEB, "CGA-Canada has always believed that there is value in unification, but we need to ensure fairness and equity for CGAs. At this time, we feel that there are a number of issues not being addressed in discussions, such as the varying use of legacy designations, the commitment to minority protection, and the governance structure of the new body."
In addition, acceptance of CPA Canada is complicated by the fact that a change in professional designation is a matter of provincial jurisdiction under the Canadian Constitution, so the decision is up to each province's CICA, CMA Canada, and CGA-Canada membership to individually decide the matter. 
At its inaugural meeting on January 15, CPA Canada approved the applications of CPA Quebec and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario (ICAO) to become Organization Members of CPA Canada. That brought CPA Canada individual members to more than 70,000, according to a January 23 posting on CPA Canada's website.
Indicative of the confusion that has enveloped the process, CPA Quebec's membership includes CGA members from its province as well as CICA and CMA members. 
Several other provincial CGA organizations are still discussing joining, according to CPA Canada. For example, "on January 14, the Certified General Accountants Association of New Brunswick (CGANB) issued an announcement to its members stating that the CGANB Board of Governors has chosen to re-enter discussions with the New Brunswick Institute of Chartered Accountants (NBICA) and CMA New Brunswick (CMANB) to support the unification of the accounting profession currently taking place across Canada." 
But CGA Ontario, which is in the nation's most populated province, said in a January 30 statement posted on its website that its board of directors doesn't support joining CPA Canada: "Over the last few weeks, more than 500 CGAs participated in member forums. When CGAs heard the facts, they overwhelmingly rejected the idea of merging with a body that would not commit to treating all members fairly and equally."

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