Insights from Quebec

Daniel McMahon, FCPA, FCA, president and CEO of CPA Quebec, shares his perspective on some of the challenges and rewards that lie ahead for other provincial associations working toward unification.

When serious talk about unifying Canada's accounting designations began in 2011, the leaders of Quebec's CA, CGA and CMA ordres quickly became staunch proponents of the merger. Unification would mean a stronger profession, better protection for the public and greater international influence. However, since this was the fifth merger attempt in Quebec in 40 years, failure was not an option.

For months, the ordres prepared tirelessly for the transition. Bill 61, the Chartered Professional Accountants Act, was adopted on May 16, 2012, thereby creating the Ordre des comptables professionnels agréés du Québec, or CPA Quebec, Canada's first unified CPA body. Today, the ordre represents more than 36,000 accounting professionals and 7,000 CPA candidates.

Daniel McMahon, FCPA, FCA, president and CEO of CPA Quebec, shares some of the challenges and rewards that lie ahead for other provincial associations working toward unification.

Charting a new way: We always said that the tone at the top is the key. We're not working for former CMAs, CAs and CGAs; we're working for CPAs. Let's talk about the future and build a new culture within the organization and the membership. That was key from the beginning.

Combining three ordres: Each organization had a different way of doing things. We not only made an effort to identify the best ways, but also tried to look at what might be the best new ways. That applies to every aspect of the organization.

Fostering pride: Building team spirit within the organization was straightforward. Employees work every day to serve CPA members; it's easy to control the progress. Building member pride was more involved. That's a long-term commitment.

Technical difficulties: The most difficult challenge is IT. Each organization's system was designed for its time. But those systems don't talk to each other. It takes time and effort to maintain the old systems while building a new one. Education is a good example. We're finishing existing programs while starting the new CPA program. We have four groups to follow, which puts a lot of pressure on internal resources.

Serving members: Our membership isn't the same as it was. The mix [of members' sectors] is different, and none of us was prepared for it. We have to consider the new mix. What services do we need? We produced our first unified CPD catalogue in August. It took a year to build the exact mix of courses.

The future: It's a privilege to build a new organization. We're shaping the future of the accounting profession. It's a challenge but it's also rewarding.

Update: New Brunswick

Since publication of the previous issue, New Brunswick has informed members that the province's three accounting bodies have agreed to form a joint venture until CPA legislation is proclaimed later in 2014. For more news about CPA Canada, see cpacanada.ca/UnificationNews.