Industry changes

Cory Hurley
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Preparations underway for new accounting structure

John O’Brien, chair of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Newfoundland and Labrador, addresses a recent luncheon meeting of accountants at the Glynmill Inn in Corner Brook.

CORNER BROOK — The number of chartered accountants in Newfoundland and Labrador is expected to more than double by next spring.

However, there will be no influx of new people in the industry. It’s just a change in structure for the professionals handling the business and finance in the province.

The entire country’s accounting landscape is changing, and members in this province say Newfoundland and Labrador has been one of the leaders in implementing and advancing that restructuring. Accountants in this province signed its unification papers last June, which other than Quebec (which was mandated to do so by its provincial government) was the first province to do so said John O’Brien, chair of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Newfoundland and Labrador, during a recent luncheon meeting with local accountants at the Glynmill Inn in Corner Brook.

In the past, there has been three designations — chartered accountant, certified management accountant, and certified general accountant. There was typically a specialization within each field, something that has grown less defined in recent years. Under the new structure, there will be just the one — chartered professional accountant (CPA).

“There are a couple of real key benefits to the public,” O’Brien said. “There will be unification of not only the accounting bodies, but of the various standards the accounting bodies operate under.

“From a public perspective, you will see improved protection of public interest and a level playing field for all professional accountants.”

O’Brien said it is similar to the one governing body in place for other professions like doctors, lawyers and engineers.

Draft legislation has been provided to the province, and the chair expects the legislation to be brought to the House of Assembly in the spring sitting.

This has not been an easy transition for the industry. There has been other attempts, and it has been met with criticism, concerns and fear. While worry still exists, O’Brien says it has been less so as members were provided more information and engaged through town hall sessions.

“There are a number of driving factors behind it,” he said. “One, is to bring the same rigour and standards we have to all accounting professions, to obtain that consistency. Also, to eliminate confusion that may be in the market about the different designations.

“We also have to remember that Canada competes globally. In order to be globally recognized, we need to have one accounting profession in Canada, under what we would call the CPA banner.”

O’Brien said the approach has been to take the best of all three programs, and meld them into one brand. The last two of the 40 bodies across the country — one in Ontario and another in Manitoba — signed on this fall, he said.

Fears pertaining to the protection of public interest, the education system, and other areas have been alleviated overall, according to the chair. To help with the transition, a “tagging” period of 10 years is being implemented where by existing members will keep their designation — identified as CPA, CA or CPA, CMA or CPA, CGA. Any new accountants will be identified as CPA.

Scott Walters, a chartered accountant in Corner Brook, said the local members shared the sentiments of many of their colleagues across the province and country. He said there remains skepticism and dissatisfaction, but, overall, there is wide support for the change.

“You are still going to have your outliers, but the majority around here say it is a positive move and a necessary move too,” he said. “For me, I am still curious as to how it is all going to lay out.

“I know changes are coming. I am still going to do my job, but it is obviously going to affect some people out there who are practicing.”

There are about 750 chartered accountants in the province. There will be about 1,600-1,700 under the new body. A transition team has been established since August, helping with the unification and implementation. Once the legislation is passed provincially, the transition is expected to follow quickly.

Organizations: Institute of Chartered Accountants of Newfoundland and Labrador, CPA, Glynmill Inn CPA, CA

Geographic location: CORNER BROOK, Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec Canada Ontario Manitoba

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