Canadian audit and assurance practitioners: How can we best support you?

Audit and assurance practitioners are an important segment of our membership. Help us assess whether we are supporting you in the best possible way.

At CPA Canada, we have resources dedicated to supporting the Canadian audit and assurance profession. Our aim is to support a variety of stakeholders including, but not limited to, small and medium practitioners (SMPs), large national firms, audit committee members, members of management involved in the financial reporting process, students, regulators, and standard-setters.

In this blog, I'll share what we've heard from practitioners and how we are currently addressing their needs. We engage a variety of stakeholders through advisory committees (for example, our SMP Advisory Committee) and events organized by CPA Canada and/or the Canadian Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (AASB).

We conducted outreach activities in 2017 and 2018, speaking to some 30 practitioners each time. Through additional outreach to respond to the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB)'s recent discussion paper on audits of less complex entities, the AASB spoke to another 100 stakeholders, including 64 SMPs and a variety of practice inspectors, practice advisors, regulators and other interested parties.

What have we heard from SMPs in Canada?

Canadian SMPs expressed the following challenges in maintaining a sustainable and thriving public practice:

  • keeping up to date with changes in audit and assurance standards, combined with the volume of other changes they also must be aware of (e.g. accounting standards, tax rules, regulatory issues)
  • implementing new technologies on assurance engagements (e.g. audit data analytics, AI)
  • talent acquisition and retention
  • growing their advisory services

Did large national firms have the same challenges?

We heard that the large national firms have resources dedicated to audit methodology and therefore mechanisms in place to stay current with the changes in standards. They shared similar challenges with the implementation of new technologies and talent acquisition. Rather than focusing on growing their advisory services, their additional challenges or concerns for the future include:

  • anticipating and addressing the issues of complexity of an entity’s operations and emerging technologies (e.g. auditing crypto-assets)
  • educating stakeholders regarding the value and benefit of assurance on information outside the traditional financial statements

What is CPA Canada doing to respond to these challenges?

To assist practitioners in keeping up with changes to auditing and assurance standards, CPA Canada maintains the Professional Engagement Guide and provides additional guidance to support the implementation of new standards. For example, the Guide to Review Engagements and the Auditor Reporting Guide are examples of guidance provided. Approximately quarterly, we update our Audit and Assurance Summary Resource Guide for easy access to all our resources.

Regarding new technologies, we provide resources on the use of audit data analytics and explore the risks related to evolving technologies, such as in my previous blog post on our Crypto-asset Auditing Working Group.

In order to address the need for assurance on information outside the traditional financial statements, CPA Canada and the AASB are providing feedback to the IAASB on their project on extended external reporting assurance and are participating in Phase 2 of the Foresight Project. Phase 2, as described in The Way Forward, will focus on data governance and value creation – two areas where there is a significant role for assurance.

Keep the conversation going

As a practitioner in Canada, do you face other challenges in maintaining your public practice? We’re always interested in how we can enhance the support we provide to the practitioner community; do you have other suggestions for how CPA Canada can best address these challenges?

Post a comment below or email me directly.

Conversations about Audit Quality is designed to create an exchange of ideas on global audit quality developments and issues and their impact in Canada.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of CPA Canada.

About the Author

Taryn Abate, CPA, CA, CPA (IL)

Director, Audit and Assurance, CPA Canada