Grumpy Accountants, Part 3

The month of May was a tumultuous one for the CA-CGA-CMA merger proposal (see part 1 and part 2 posts for the history here). In two short weeks the vision of one accounting profession has fallen apart:

  • May 14th – Alberta CMAs and CGAs intend to continue merger talks despite Alberta CA’s having pulled out of the talks
  • May 15th – Ontario CGAs and CMAs announce that they are pulling out of merger talks in that province
  • May 16th – Quebec legislation merging CAs, CGAs and CMAs in that province is passed
  • May 23rd – New Brunswick CGAs announce they are pulling out of merger talks in that province
  • May 24th – BC CGAs announce that they are pulling out of merger talks in that province
  • May 25th – Nova Scotia CGAs announce that they are pulling out of merger talks in that province
  • May 28th – CGA-Canada withdraws from national unification discussions (see announcement here)
  • May 28th – CICA and CMA Canada (CA and CMA national bodies, respectively) announce they intend to proceed with merger talks

Merger Talks Whistling in the Graveyard?

The CICA’s May 28th announcement states:

“Then, as now, we believe strongly that uniting all three Canadian accounting organizations through the creation of the Canadian CPA would best protect the public by creating a common set of high ethical and practice standards and strengthen the profession’s influence and value both at home and internationally.”

Despite this lofty sentiment, the resulting impact of this merger discussion has not been to unite, but rather has been to confuse the accounting profession even more. The accounting profession started with three different designations in Canada, and at present has four (Quebec CPAs) and has the potential to end where we started, with three designations in Canada.

At the moment in Manitoba it appears to be full speed ahead with the unification of CAs and CMAs. The Manitoba government has said that it will legislate any change based on an agreement of the three accounting bodies. By last count, the CGAs are not participating, and 40% of CAs are against the merger, and while it is hard to see a scenario where the government would be able to justify defining those kinds of numbers as “agreement”, it is entirely possible that a merger is still in our province’s future.

Certainly ICAM (Institute of Chartered Accountants of Manitoba) thinks so. Gary Hannaford, CEO of ICAM, intends on pursuing the merger, and when asked he stated that a new member advisory vote would not be required since the terms of the merger in Manitoba have not changed. When further asked if the 60% of CAs in Manitoba who voted in favour of the merger might rethink their position in light of this new national landscape, he did not reply.

Ironic End-Game

Faced with the possible merger of the CAs and CMAs, which is still in the works, the real unknown is what the CGAs will do now. One of the main arguments for the merger was to help Canada compete in a global marketplace, a wholly unsubstantiated but pleasingly compelling argument in support of the merger.

In order to compete for students against a new CPA designation in the global marketplace, will the CGAs choose to align themselves with other accounting bodies, such as the truly international ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants)?

The ACCA, which has a British Royal Charter and a stated goal of being the largest accounting organization in the world, has been looking for a way to penetrate the Canadian market, and already has a mutual recognition agreement with CGA-Canada.

In the previous post, I said that the decision would be made in Ontario, and Ontario CGAs and CMAs have recently pulled out, though the Institute of CAs of Ontario is still in support of the merger. The dominos will take some time to fall, but I predict that they will fall. The two largest economies in the country, Alberta and Ontario, have said no to the merger. The smaller provinces would be wise to follow.

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