Unification complete at CPA Canada

With Canada’s three national accounting bodies fully united, the accounting profession can look forward to having a stronger voice both at home and on the world stage.

Above: CGA-Canada's main office in Burnaby, BC, is now the western arm of CPA Canada.

Canada’s accounting profession can look forward to having a stronger national voice with greater influence and a heftier presence at home and on the world stage. After years of groundwork, the country’s three national accounting bodies fully united on Oct. 1, 2014, when CGA-Canada joined CPA Canada.

"It’s a fantastic achievement that we’ve finally got everything together," says Kevin Dancey, CPA Canada’s president and CEO. "With 190,000 members, we’re one of the world’s largest accounting bodies. Canada has always punched above its weight, and our hope and expectation is that CPA Canada will continue to be quite influential at the global standards tables."

The push toward unification began in 2011. At the time, there were 40 accounting bodies across Canada, as well as in Bermuda. When unification is complete, the CPA profession will be represented by 14 accounting bodies.

Unification is at various stages across the country. In some provinces, CPA legislation has been passed. In others, it’s progressing and should be complete by 2016.

At the national level, the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants and CMA Canada established CPA Canada on Jan. 1, 2013. CGA-Canada’s unification with CPA Canada is the final step on the journey toward a single accounting profession in Canada.

"A fully unified profession is a win-win for members, future members, the public and the country," says Pat Keller, chair of CGA-Canada. "This exciting new chapter in Canadian accountancy is based on the best of the legacy designations. It positions CPA as Canada’s pre-eminent accounting and business credential."

Influence and alignment

Canada’s accountants are now speaking with a single voice, which makes the profession more influential, says Keller. "We’re also in a better position to serve the public. We’ve begun aligning codes of professional conduct, disciplinary systems, licensing regimes and so forth, so we’re more effective and stronger."

More Canadian accountants are becoming aware of the overall benefits of a unified profession. Among them is Chris Reimer, CGA, CA, a principal of Reimer & Co. in Swan River, Man.

Initially, Reimer wasn’t convinced that the unification proposal would benefit him or the individual accounting bodies. However, after hearing the arguments for and against unification, he says "it became apparent to me that it was inevitable and, I believe, in the long term best interest for all parties involved."

Reimer says the blurred distinction between CAs, CGAs and CMAs was causing confusion in the marketplace. Over time, unification should "capitalize on many synergies." For example, with unification complete, marketing dollars could be spent on promoting the profession instead of competing ad campaigns for each designation.

Bigger and bolder

The integration of CGA-Canada with CPA Canada creates economies of scale that benefit CPAs. CGA-Canada also brings global connections to the table. CGA-Canada has enjoyed a substantial presence in the Caribbean and Asia for decades. Its success in delivering education programs in other countries, supporting global affiliates and exporting accounting program knowledge will be a strong asset as CPA Canada pursues opportunities in emerging markets.

CGA-Canada and CPA Canada prepared for unification by combining services, systems and people in ways that best contribute to the profession, Keller says.

Benefiting our many members

The combined resources of three legacy bodies positions CPA Canada to provide enhanced benefits. "Taking advantage of our larger numbers, we can drive more value, whether we’re producing stronger publications or arranging offers through our member savings program," says Nicholas Cheung, CPA Canada’s vice-president of member services.

"Members will have access to a vast selection of publications, thought pieces, case studies, career support resources and job postings. As well, a larger membership helps everyone benefit from enhanced networking opportunities," says Cheung.

Another member benefit is CPA Canada’s enhanced elearning library. PD Net, CGA-Canada’s professional development website (cga-pdnet.org), will add more than 130 items, including webinars, courses and certificate programs.

"CPA Canada will host a robust and relevant member library of elearning for CPAs in Canada," says Frank Colantonio, CPA Canada’s director of professional learning and development. "The elearning covers taxation, financial reporting and accounting, management accounting and professional skills."

What’s next?

Integration is moving forward quickly because of tireless staff and volunteer boards, committees and work groups, reports Bob Strachan, incoming chair of CPA Canada’s board of directors.

While much of the heavy lifting is done, the journey continues. Integrating operations provincially is a massive undertaking because of the need to merge three certification programs, operating cultures and office spaces. (Harmonization of member dues is also coming. Dancey says he hopes to achieve harmonization nationally by 2016.)

The CPA profession is also revising its strategic framework. "The federated model of our profession has challenges and setting the course from the outset is vitally important," says Strachan. "It’s important that all stakeholders — in particular, the national board, provincial CPA boards and their respective management teams — are aligned and working together on behalf of the Canadian CPA profession. It’s important that the vision and key objectives be aligned and that all of the bodies work collectively to meet agreed commitments."

CPA Canada will also continue to raise awareness of the value of the Canadian CPA designation and the way that a stronger, single accounting profession will benefit the public, businesses and members, says Strachan. "Unification is a huge accomplishment. Now we have much work to do to ensure the Canadian CPA is recognized by all our stakeholders — at home and abroad — for the value we deliver to all."

For more information about unification, visit unification.cpacanada.ca.

CELEBRATE!

Oct. 1 marks the official integration of CGA-Canada with CPA Canada. Connected by communications technology, all staff in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Burnaby, BC, will celebrate the event, says Heather Whyte, vice-president of strategic communications, branding & public affairs.

"CEO Kevin Dancey will lead this national virtual meeting by welcoming the CGA-Canada employees, demonstrating the power of technology to connect operations across the country, and celebrating the importance of being one team."

KEY MILESTONES

2011: The unification journey begins.

Jan. 1, 2013: The Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants and CMA Canada establish CPA Canada.

April 1, 2013: CICA and CMA Canada merge operations.

Oct. 1, 2014: National unification is completed: CGA-Canada joins CPA Canada.

2016: Completion of unification at the provincial level is expected.

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