Rod Barr, president and CEO of ICAO, left, and Doug Brooks, CEO of CGA Ontario
Unresolved issues in several critically important areas have forced two of the three major accounting bodies to tell their members that a merger vote expected in June is off, and wonít happen until common ground can be found among the three memberships.
The long list of items outstanding raises the question of whether talks might be destined to ultimately break down in Canadaís most populous province of Ontario, although accounting leaders at both the provincial and national level insist thatís not happening.
Similarly worded press releases by the Certified General Accountants of Ontario and Certified Management Accountants of Ontario identify the unresolved issues as including, "a legal structure and a member ratification process that would be acceptable to the boards of the three parties to effect the unification; enforceable commitments regarding member protection and minority rights; agreement on the information and documentation the three organizations would be given on which to base their vote; the transitional governance structure; the national governance model, including clearly defined roles and responsibilities; and inconsistencies across the country with respect to use of the CPA designation."
In spite of current differences, however, "talks continue in Ontario. We believe in the opportunities and benefits of unifying the profession and would proceed under the right circumstances," says CGA Ontarioís Toronto-based chief executive officer Doug Brooks.
Rod Barr, president and chief executive officer of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario in Toronto, admits the ICAO is disappointed in the delay, but notes that "we owe it to our members to get the proposal right; if that means delaying its release, thatís something we accept."
Al Rosen, principal of Rosen & Associates Limited, a Toronto-based litigation and forensic accounting firm, and a member of all three professional accounting bodies in Ontario, believes CGA Ontario and CMA Ontario have just now come to the realization that unification was a bad idea to start with.
"Canada has had a different setup with respect to accounting organizations for a long time. The CA is split into people in public practice and (those) outside. CGA has very few who are public accountants, and CMA has virtually none. There isnít the compatibility there to start with," Rosen says, adding that the three bodiesí professional course content is completely different as well.
Brooks dismisses that argument. "The fact that members with different designations might have different professional responsibilities is not a significant issue. Members who share an accounting designation often have vastly different professional responsibilities," he says.
The national organizations also deny any undue concern over potentially negative ramifications for merger discussions in the province where each enjoys their largest member base.
"With any setback in discussions, there is some degree of disappointment," says Joy Thomas, president and chief executive officer of the Certified Management Accountants of Canada in Mississauga, Ont. But "with 38 bodies in these discussions, itís not unexpected that different groups are going to jump in and out, and the speed at which each arrive at decisions is going to change," she says.
"Iím not concerned in terms of the list of issues. Iím also not concerned this means anythingís going to fall through," says Thomas.
"This is a complex and difficult exercise, and it will take different time frames in different provinces," says Kevin Dancey, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants in Toronto. "These are issues that need resolution and Ontario just needs more time to work them through," he adds.