Certified General Accountant bodies in New Brunswick and in Newfoundland and Labrador are back in unification discussions to determine if a three-way merger with their provincial CA and CMA counterparts would work, while CGA Saskatchewan has also asked to rejoin merger talks in that province.
Could other CGA bodies be close behind, ready to join their Atlantic counterparts, along with Alberta and Quebec, in support of the new, unified CPA?
With other CGA organizations across Canada reporting no changes in status at press time, Schulich School of Businessís Umashanker Trivedi thinks itís just a matter of time before there is at least a bit of a domino effect.
"I think the smaller [CGA] players will definitely be part of the unification process earlier than later," said Trivedi, an associate professor of accounting who is not affiliated with any of the three major Canadian organizations. "And I think the bigger ones might follow suit. But itís not going to happen very quickly. Itís going to take some time.
"I think they must have looked at the lay of the land and decided that, being smaller institutions in Canada, it makes sense for them to join the unification scheme," he said of the two Maritimes bodies. "I donít think they could carry on effectively on their own."
In Newfoundland and Labrador, representatives see merit in having all three groups back at the merger table.
"There is no doubt that a merged body Ö will create efficiencies and thatís a good thing for all of us," said Fern Mitchelmore, executive director of CGA Newfoundland and Labrador.
Mark Bradbury, chief executive officer of CMA Newfoundland and Labrador, said: "Coming from a smaller province in comparison to others across the country, we think that the benefits to our members will be even more enhanced as a result of unification, [including] better quality services, such as professional development. We firmly believe that will benefit Newfoundland and Labradorian members and businesses."
"Weíve always gotten along with CGA in the past as a partner here in this province, so we thought it was very important that they be a part of it," he added
CGA leaders said the timing was right to move on the national unity file, just as they believed the timing was right when they withdrew from unification talks to pursue a national CGA strategy last April.
"In the beginning when we left these merger talks, the decision wasnít easy to make," said Mitchelmore. "I feel and continue to feel that we have a model here that perhaps every province should be following.
"We looked at the overall landscape of what was happening across the country. [CGA] Alberta was still in and things were going very well for them. So we felt that the time was right with the formation of CPA Canada for us to come back into these discussions provincially."
Keith Minaker, CEO of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Newfoundland and Labrador, was also pleased. "We were disappointed when CGA Newfoundland left the initial merger discussions. Weíve always wanted them to come back, and always thought that we were stronger as three."
The three bodies are currently writing a draft to establish the CPA Newfoundland and Labrador with a view to having an agreement, perhaps by early spring, in order to be able to start the process that will enact legislative change for the new organization this year.
Trudy Dryden, executive director of CGA New Brunswick in Moncton, explained that, like her NL counterpart, her organization decided to change course and pursue provincial unification, rather than the CGA national strategy.
"It had become apparent as events unfolded that unification was unlikely to occur in the foreseeable future in Ontario. It also became apparent that some provincial CGA bodies were unwilling to re-enter merger discussions without negotiations progressing in Ontario while others including CGA New Brunswick supported a continuation of the initial steps taken to move forward in the merger process.
"The merger discussions between CMA and CA bodies in New Brunswick were well under way. If we were to have meaningful input in shaping a unified accounting profession in New Brunswick we needed to be involved in the negotiations," she said.
Furthermore, if CGA New Brunswick is successful in pursuing unification at the provincial level, it might influence other CGA bodies to do the same, Dryden said, adding that national unification of the profession is still in the best interests of the public and the profession.
Jack Blackier, executive director of the New Brunswick Institute of Chartered Accountants said, it will take some time to get CGA up to speed on merger talks and everyone on the same page. "We want to do it right as opposed to doing it quickly. If we need a little more time in order to get it right, thatís not time thatís going to be wasted, in my view."
In another significant cross-country development, CGA Saskatchewan recently approached the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Saskatchewan (ICAS) and CMA Saskatchewan and asked to rejoin merger talks. CGAs there withdrew from discussions last May.
"Weíve told them we still have work to do before weíre ready to talk to them," said Betty Hoffart, CMA Saskatchewanís CEO. "We need to clarify whether we have to engage our members before we start talking to them, or if we can do that after we have a three-way proposal.
"Our councils have always been in favour of full unification in the province. We were disappointed when the CGAs dropped out back in May [but] continued to move forward. [We] put together a two-way proposal between CMA and the Institute, and thatís what our members voted on in October," Hoffart added.
Keri McFadden, CEO of the ICAS, said that group must hold a new member vote to approve a potential three-way merger, but expects that vote will be held parallel to any new discussions involving CGA. (No formal date for resuming discussions had been set at press time.) "Full unification across the country has always been the goal," she added.
The ICAS and CMA Saskatchewan recently submitted a report to their provincial government indicating the two bodies were in favour of unification, and recommending the government amend its legislation to repeal existing provincial CA and CMA acts to create a Chartered Professional Accountants Act. They are hoping legislation can be introduced in the fall in time for final proclamation in the spring of 2014.
Meanwhile, the ICAS and CMA Saskatchewan are preparing for CPA education delivery to begin in September. Hoffart and McFadden said the two bodies are considering forming a joint venture with which to deliver the education program.
"Weíre continuing any work that needs to be done because we do have quite a tight time frame to get things rolling," said McFadden. "We will work on getting any efficiencies we can between the two bodies right now, and can also have talks with the CGAs."
CGA-Canada was approached for comment on these latest developments, but declined.
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Manitoba and CMA Manitoba have also signed a formal agreement to pursue a two-way merger and are working with their provincial government to establish a new CPA Manitoba. Both organizations will start their CPA Professional Education Program later in 2013.