Special Issue on the Merger of the Accounting Profession in Canada

Canada’s three professional accounting associations—the CAs, CGAs and CMAs—are currently in discussion to merge the three bodies into a single unified profession under the Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) designation. In some provinces, members of the three professional bodies will be given an opportunity to vote on the merger proposal. This Special Issue of Accounting Perspectives is comprised of four papers that contribute an academic dimension to the debates leading to this important decision. This issue is intended to assist members understand the process and implications of the merger.

            Accounting firms and industry employers have been relatively quiet on this debate, even though it is unlikely that the merger would have been initiated without the blessing of the public accounting firms. The members of some accounting bodies in a few provinces have begun to voice concerns about the merger. Both the leadership of the three accounting bodies that are advocating for the merger and the members within those bodies expressing reservations are citing public interest as the reason for their positions. Given the lack of unanimity in the profession, the journal seeks to provide renewed perspectives on the merger proposal and its implications. Neither the journal nor the Canadian Academic Accounting Association hold a position with respect to the outcome of the merger.  

            In this Special Issue, Alan Richardson and Eksa Kilfoyle examine the history of mergers and association creation in Canada and use institutional theory to identify the conditions associated with major changes in the structure of the accounting profession in Canada. They also review the public rationale for the various rounds of merger proposals. Ken Guo analyzes the content of official online forums where accountants express their pro- or anti-merger opinions. He classifies their objections to the merger into two categories: criticisms about the lack of organizational justice, and concerns about professional identity. He also documents the online discussions about the strategies accountants might employ to resist the proposed merger. Such analysis reveals an interesting portrayal of how some professional accountants view themselves. There may be some healthy and reconcilable difference in opinion between the leadership and the rank-and-file members in the accounting profession. How the merger evolves may depend on whether it is decided only by the leadership or whether the membership is allowed a vote.  

            Cary List, the President and CEO of the Financial Planning Standards Council, makes a case for unifying the profession—both for accountancy and for financial planning. He questions why the accounting profession continues to mix public advocacy with member advocacy, and suggests that a unified profession may be better able to implement a separate oversight body (like the Law Society) advocating for the public and a professional association (like the Ontario Bar Association) that looks after members’ interests. This article highlights the scope of interest in this debate and the diversity of authors in this issue. It also illustrates that the issues raised by the proposed accounting merger are likely to be applicable more broadly to other institutions and professions. In the final paper, Jo-Anne Ryan, Camillo Lento, and Naqi Sayed examine how some of the issues surrounding the proposed merged designation may be viewed and understood by stakeholders, with a particular emphasis on the proposed CPA certification process.  

            The collection of applied research papers in this Special Issue will hopefully stimulate interest in an important public policy issue and help fulfill the journal’s ongoing mandate to provide a bridge between practice and academics. This Special Issue serves as a contribution by the Canadian Academic Accounting Association to the profession and to the public.

Amin Mawani
Editor


Editor's Note: The Special Issue papers available below are pre-publication versions of the articles that will appear in Accounting Perspectives, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Summer 2012).

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