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The Bay Street Financial District in Toronto on Aug. 5, 2022.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Kevin Dancey, C.M., FCPA, FCA, is the former Senior Partner and CEO of PwC Canada, former President and CEO of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA) and CPA Canada, and is currently the CEO of the International Federation Of Accountants (IFAC). He is writing in his personal capacity.

In 1955 Pete Seeger wrote the classic folk song Where Have All the Flowers Gone? Replace “Flowers” with “Leaders” and the song, which is a meditation on death, aptly describes the current state of the leadership of the Canadian Chartered Professional Accountants profession where, if not death, there is a certainly an apparent dearth of leadership.

This is a sad state, and totally unnecessary. It has been precipitated by CPA Ontario and CPA Quebec announcing their withdrawal from their current working relationship with the Canadian CPA profession.

What is the core issue?

We’re all left to guess. But my sense is that it’s pretty simple. CPA Ontario and CPA Quebec want to turn the national body into a service centre that is under the thumb of the provinces. They want control. When you wade through all their public statements, it’s the only conclusion that resonates.

Everything else is misdirection and doesn’t pass the smell test. I could be wrong. But until these bodies explain how their proposed action is good for the profession and good for Canada, I have to assume my supposition is correct.

The opportunities, challenges, and indeed public interest responsibilities of our great profession have never been greater. The 220,000 Canadian CPAs know this. Why don’t some of our leaders? Why are provincial leaders focused instead on internal squabbles and power grabs? Why are they focused on plunging the profession into an era of uncertainty, with unintended consequences that likely won’t be good for our profession?

Accountants express opposition to Ontario, Quebec plan to split profession’s governance

As a Canadian CPA I don’t have many asks of my professional bodies, but I do have a few:

First, keep my badge, my designation, shiny. I’m proud of it. Focus on things that help me and that amplify Canadian CPAs role in making the Canadian economy strong and vibrant. Don’t waste time on this current dispute that embarrasses the Canadian accountancy profession domestically and internationally. That’s not why I pay my dues.

Second, recognize that Canada’s accountancy profession is a functioning federation with a division of duties. The provincial and territorial bodies are regulators. The national body is the entity that binds our profession together, supports the setting of accountancy and assurance standards, develops national programs (certification exam and tax training), and serves as the voice of the profession domestically and internationally.

From time to time there can be disputes in such a structure. Welcome to the Canadian federation. But, when these happen, Canadian CPAs expect to be treated like adults. They expect to be told the truth in clear and simple language. They expect to be consulted. After all it is their profession, not a profession “owned” by any one provincial, territorial or national body.

Sadly, with CPA Ontario and CPA Quebec leadership announcing their withdrawal, we’ve been treated by those bodies like children of an arrogant parent. We’re served up consultant-approved messages that misrepresent, spin and don’t get to the core issue. We’re told to stand down, be quiet and let them decide our fate.

They tell us the profession starts and ends with the provincial regulators. No, it doesn’t. It starts and ends with the 220,000 CPAs working in all walks of Canadian business and society to make Canada a better place to live and work.

In my view, ceding control of everything the profession encompasses to provincial regulators is not the right course of action. That’s not how Canada works, and it will not bode well for the Canadian CPA profession and its current and future members. Moreover, shouldn’t the provincial regulators focus on regulating and not on controlling every aspect of the national CPA profession?

It’s an issue that needs to be debated and discussed with all Canadian CPAs who have a vested interest in this great profession. Canadian CPAs are a smart, thoughtful bunch. They can deal with this issue.

Actor Peter Finch’s last role was playing anchorman Howard Beale in the 1976 film Network. His classic line, leaning out of a window, was “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this any more.” That’s how I feel about the current situation. And I bet most Canadian CPAs do as well.

The famous Pogo quote also comes to mind: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

If you agree, speak up. Get engaged with the CEOs and Councils of your provincial bodies in Ontario and Quebec. Tell them they need to stay in their respective lanes, focus on their own areas of responsibility, work together respectfully when they need to, and work to enhance the value of the CPA designation and our great profession.

This is not difficult, but the clock is ticking. Demonstrate your support for leaders who want to bring the profession together, not tear it apart.

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