Message from the president and CEO: Correcting the CBC

CPA Canada’s Kevin Dancey shares facts about recent erroneous CBC reports and what actions CPA Canada has taken in response.

We appreciate the messages of support from many who understand that CBC reports in early October linking CPA Canada to a current court case involving KPMG inaccurately depict the actions of CPA Canada. We advised CBC long before the reports were made that the premise of the story being presented was incorrect. Yet this clarification was not reflected in the final reports.

As soon as the CBC reports were made public, CPA Canada notified CBC of its errors and posted “CPA Canada sets the record straight” on our website.

While CBC subsequently modified its online reports, we do not believe that the changes are sufficient to correct the impression that CPA Canada acted inappropriately, nor has CBC acknowledged the inaccuracies. CPA Canada is currently considering its options and is providing this communication to members to ensure they understand why we are so concerned about the CBC reports.

CPA CANADA AS INTERVENOR

The CBC documentary suggests that CPA Canada was challenging CRA in support of KPMG.

CPA Canada’s only connection to the KPMG case was that we had signalled our intent to apply for intervenor status. We did this to help maintain the frank and open communication essential for CPAs to assist their clients effectively with their tax filing obligations and financial statement disclosures.

We are concerned about potential CRA overuse of the Unnamed Persons requirement in the Income Tax Act to seek information from CPAs and others when that information can be obtained from more direct sources. Such actions could put a “chill” on the relationship between CPAs and their clients.

Not only is the CBC documentary factually incorrect, it presents an inaccurate depiction of intervention in a court case such as that in which KPMG is currently involved. When a professional organization such as CPA Canada endeavours to intervene in a court case, it is not to support one of the parties. Rather, it is to provide the court with further facts and information for its consideration.

CPA Canada has intervened in cases in the past and will seek intervenor status in the future when we believe there is a public interest perspective that needs to be taken into account.  

OTHER ISSUES

CBC’s online articles and broadcasts cited several other unrelated activities and endeavoured to link them to create the impression that they were related to the potential intervention application. Furthermore, the reports stated that CPA Canada is a lobby group whose activities were taken with the intent to support KPMG.  

The examples cited included the well-publicized Framework Agreement CPA Canada entered into with CRA in 2014; our hiring of Bill Dobson, a retired CRA executive, as a contractor; and a meeting held at the CPA Canada offices last year with then Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The background on these activities is highlighted in “CPA Canada sets the record straight.”

CPA Canada undertook these activities in its capacity as a national professional body whose responsibility it is to consult with the government on matters of importance and matters in which it has specific expertise. The federal government in its own communications and policies states that engagement with key stakeholders is an activity that is both necessary and in the public interest. 

OUR CONCERN

The CBC is Canada’s national, publicly-funded broadcaster, relied on by Canadians to provide accurate and fair coverage of national and international issues and to help its audience understand complex issues and events. In this instance, the CBC appears to have fallen far short of fulfilling its mandate and honouring the trust placed in it by Canadians.

Given the information CPA Canada provided, the CBC should have been well aware before its broadcasts and publications that our only connection to the KPMG case was our potential intervention.  

Nonetheless, the CBC articles and broadcasts misrepresented the role and interests of CPA Canada. And, the CBC’s unexpected arrival with a TV camera at Bill Dobson’s home was regrettable and an invasion of privacy given that the reporter’s relevant questions had already been answered. CBC’s journalism simply did not meet the high standard Canadians expect from their national broadcaster.

We expect more from our national, publicly-funded broadcaster. And we believe our members and all Canadians should, too.

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