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Canadian accountants merge under CPA designation

The merger unites 185,000 accountants in Canada under a new Chartered Professional Accountants (CPA) banner.

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Canada's numerous accounting bodies have completed their final merger approvals, agreeing to combine under the Chartered Professional Accountants banner in every province and territory.

The final approval came late last week as Certified General Accountants of Ontario agreed to merge with Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario. CGA members in the province voted 97 per cent in favour of the merger, while CPA members were 74 per cent in support, according to results announced Monday.

The agreement means all of Canada's Chartered Accountants (CAs), Certified Management Accountants (CMAs) and Certified General Accountants (CGAs) have now agreed to join forces, uniting 185,000 accountants in Canada under a new Chartered Professional Accountants (CPA) banner.

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The merger required approvals over the past two years from 40 accounting bodies, including national associations for CAs, CMAs and CGAs and the regional bodies for each of the three groups in 10 provinces and two territories. It also required approval in Bermuda, where accountants are regulated under Canadian accounting standards.

Rod Barr, chief executive officer of CPA Ontario, said some provincial legislatures still need to give final approvals to the mergers, but there has been no indication of any political opposition.

"It's pretty much done, although in each province there's a minister that owns the particular file who has a right to quash it if they want," he said. "There's no sign anywhere that that would happen."

Ontario's CGAs were the last to agree to a merger in the province even after CAs and CMAs agreed to combine to become CPAs.

The CGA national body withdrew from merger talks in 2012, but reversed that decision a year ago after numerous provincial groups began to negotiate separate deals in their regions.

The Ontario CGA body was initially resistant because members did not agree with the merger terms, but later determined there was "an opportunity to get the circumstances right" through negotiation, said CGA Ontario chief executive officer Doug Brooks.

"Our position had always been that we thought unification made sense under the right circumstances," he said Monday.

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Under terms of the merger, students who begin studies in the future will become CPAs when they graduate, while existing accountants will use the CPA designation along with their former CA, CGA or CMA titles until November, 2022. After that, they can opt to stop using their former titles and only call themselves CPAs, or they can continue using CPA with their former titles.

Historically, Canada's accounting bodies had different profiles, with CAs often working as external auditors, while CMAs were more often in-house corporate accountants who focused on internal strategy.

Those distinctions, frequently pointed out in advertising campaigns, were increasingly blurring in recent years, which was a key reason the groups launched merger talks. In 2011, for example, 60 per cent of CAs were in-house corporate accountants.

Mr. Barr said under the merger agreement, there is a new educational process that will require all students to study accounting, but will also allow them to choose another area of specialty such as strategy, auditing, finance and tax.

"What we did was develop an education system that incorporated many of the best features of all three predecessor bodies," he said.

Mr. Barr said the three organizations were "more homogeneous than not" but there are still numerous details to be finalized to unite the accounting bodies in Ontario, where each has separate organizations.

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"We spent a lot of time differentiating ourselves," he said. "Now we've realized how close we are, and now we have to bring that into an absolute, on-the-ground reality."

Editor's Note: The chief executive officer of CGA Ontario is Doug Brooks. An incorrect surname was published in an earlier version of this article.

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About the Author
Real Estate Reporter

Janet McFarland is the real estate reporter for The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business, with a focus on residential real estate trends. She joined Report on Business in 1995, and has specialized in reporting on corporate governance, executive compensation, pension policy, business law, securities regulation and enforcement of white-collar crime. More

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