Accounting unification: Full steam ahead

I had a fantastic week!  The CICA annual general meeting was in Kelowna at the beginning of the week and I was able to connect with some wonderful people.  The picture below is from that meeting.  Notice the CPA Canada signs that are more prominent than the CICA signs?

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Then I woke up this morning to read a BC CGA blog on unification.  I know the two authors well and respect them.  They raise some reasonable points and in my opinion some unreasonable points.  My music choice while I write this?  The truly Canadian Tragically Hip singing “Scared” (lyrics here).

 Reasonable points

  • Ultimately the CPA designation hinges on government legislation: Yep, that’s absolutely true.  Given Premier Clark’s decision this week for BC legislature to NOT sit in the house this fall, its virtually impossible for the necessary legislation to be passed before the provincial government election in May 2013.  Obviously no one can predict when the legislation will pass given the possibility of a new government.  All current cabinet members and their opposition counterparts are aware of the CPA unification issue.  In my opinion the only uncertainty is when, not if.
  • “In B.C. nearly two-thirds of the province’s professional accounting students are taking CGA.”  While I don’t have the exact figures in front of me, I suspect that’s true.  Of course what is less clear is the average period to complete (or not) the CGA designation.  For instance, currently UBC Okanagan has roughly 8,300 students who complete their degree more less on the traditional 4-5 year plan.  I can double my number of student registrations by dragging out their education eight or ten years.  I’m not sure that would be a selling point though.

Unreasonable (or incorrect) points

  • “In Ontario, home to 50 per cent of Canada’s professional accountants, the merger is not happening.”  This is incorrect.  The latest position of the Ontario CAs states clearly that they are committed to national unification.  As I’ve said before, CMA Ontario and CGA Ontario are not at the table currently.  That’s too bad but unification can still happen nationally.  Yes, Ontario has a lot of accountants and Canada’s only professional major league baseball team but no, they’re not the centre of the universe.  If the Leafs ever become contenders I’ll revise my view.
  • There is great uncertainty around transition for students.  This is also incorrect.  Certainly the transition timeframes may need to be adjusted while legislation is pending, but there is some excellent, accurate, detailed transition information available here: http://cpaone.ca/candidates/transition.html
  • “Frankly, we feel the other programs are adapting to become more like us.”  Really?  If that was true why did you remove yourselves from the provincial unification discussions?  That makes no sense.  Now on that topic, I think you should clarify why you withdrew from the unification talks.  And the real reasons, not the hand waving ones.
  • The monopoly/anti-competiton line … “benefits of competition and the advantages inherent to choice”.  This falls flat on its face and any commerce/business/management student will see the holes.  Virtually every profession in Canada has ONE oversight body nationally or provincially: physicians, lawyers, veterinarians etc.  There’s no monopoly or lack of competition.  This is VERY different from the Bell/Astral controversy but I suspect that most readers already see that.

Conclusion

If you’re a current university student graduating in the near future, concentrate on your studies.  Don’t waste a ton of energy thinking about the unification.  You’ve chosen a great career and whether you end up with a CPA, a CPA.CA, a CPA.CMA or something else, accounting is a wonderful profession.  You will have plenty of opportunity to help people make great decisions using accounting information.  Uncertainty is embedded in accounting, it shouldn’t frighten us.  Trust me when I say that there are great people sinking tons of time into making sure the CPA unification is successful.  There are individuals who live and breathe this; who don’t sleep until the merger is closer to fruition than it was yesterday.

I have two closing thoughts.  The first from the Great One (#99), “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”  I’m excited that we’re taking this shot and I wish the BC CGAs were willing to shoot the puck around with us.  Second, as Gord Downie sings,

Okay, you made me scared, you did what you set out to do
I’m not prepared, you really had me going there for a minute or two

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