Institute Of Chartered Accountants Of Ontario

Institute Of Chartered Accountants Of Ontario

May 04, 2010 11:06 ET

Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario: Bill 158 Cuts Through the "Alphabet Soup" of Accounting Designations

CA profession applauds government initiative, decries attempts to muddy its intent

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 4, 2010) - The Ontario government should be lauded for its proposed Accounting Professions Act, 2010 (Bill 158), which has unfairly come under fire from people who say it is "protectionist", says the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario.

Bill 158 updates the Chartered Accountants Act – passed in 1956 and adds similar acts governing the Certified General Accountants (CGAs) and Certified Management Accountants (CMAs). The legislation would modernize their regulatory powers to protect consumers and the public – especially as it relates to disciplining acts of misconduct in a timely and effective way.

"Given the intent of this Act, we were surprised that debate around this bill has been hijacked by people holding accounting designations earned outside of this country, who say Bill 158 would add barriers to employment," said Rod Barr, FCA, President and CEO of the Institute. "This argument pre-supposes that Ontario should welcome all international designations without taking into account whether they are even acquainted with Ontario business and tax law, or whether they are so similar to existing, recognized Canadian accounting designations as to risk confusion over who is properly regulated in this province and who is not."

Consumer and public protection is at the heart of the provision in Bill 158 respecting the use of non-recognized accounting designations in a way that would imply that these individuals are members of one of Ontario's recognized accounting designations, when in fact they are not. This has been the law in this province for nearly a century.

"The issue at stake here is not that of 'barriers to employment'," Barr stressed. "Nothing in this provision impacts on the ability of people with international accounting designations to seek employment as an accountant, to provide accounting services, or indeed to describe their relevant education and credentials." To that end, Barr noted, the Act enables them to reference their designations in résumés and applications for employment, in speeches and business presentations, and so on. "In fact, their right to do these things would be set out more clearly than was the case in the current Act."

However, Bill 158 also continues to reflect the belief of both the government and the CA profession that the effectively regulated practice of accounting is critical to the proper functioning of Ontario's financial services sector. An important part of protecting the public is ensuring that individuals and businesses can easily tell the difference between the various accounting designations and know which ones are regulated in Ontario – as opposed to those requiring a plane ticket to London to press a complaint.

"Can the general public tell the difference between an Ontario-regulated designation and one obtained abroad?" said Barr. "With or without their country of origin in brackets, this is an alphabet soup which includes: ACCA, CA, CGA, CPA, CIMA, CMA, RPA, among others. Our market research and our experience shows that even senior politicians and business people can't easily tell the difference between those few designations that are actually regulated by Canadian and Ontario law, never mind those from other jurisdictions.

"Consumers should not be expected to have the expertise to judge the relative competencies of accounting practitioners. That's why we have regulatory accounting bodies. And they certainly should not be expected to know that one practitioner belongs to a professional accounting body recognized in Ontario law, regulated in Ontario, required to meet certain standards and subject to professional conduct rules and discipline mechanisms in Ontario – and that another does not."

Barr added it is ironic that the UK-based accounting bodies who claim the greatest concern with this provision enjoy reciprocal rights with recognized Ontario accounting bodies. This means that by taking a few nominal steps to show they're familiar with Canadian laws and regulations, they could earn an Ontario designation and demonstrate that they've made the effort and are now overseen by a provincially based accounting body.

"Few professions today are more sensitive to the need for global talent and expertise than Chartered Accountants," Barr said. "That's why the profession has invested substantial sums to assess the qualifications of internationally trained accountants. The CA profession fully recognizes that Ontario needs international professionals to work here. But our province must also strike a balance between that need and the protection of the public."

Bill 158 strikes that balance and enhances public protection by strengthening our Ontario-based accounting bodies' ability to effectively provide regulatory oversight, while enabling holders of foreign credentials to use them in a way that clarifies the alphabet soup of accounting designations in the marketplace today, Barr said.

For an Op-Ed on Bill 158, free to use with a credit to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario, visit: http://www.icao.on.ca/MediaRoom/MediaArticles/OpEdBill158/1009page11413.pdf.

About the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario:

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario is the qualifying and regulatory body of Ontario's 33,000 Chartered Accountants and 5,000 CA students. Since 1879, the Institute has protected the public interest through the CA profession's internationally recognized standards of qualification and the enforcement of its rules of professional conduct. Ontario CAs contribute greatly to international and domestic investor confidence in the soundness of the Ontario and Canadian economies. The Institute's website is: www.icao.on.ca and the student website is www.guidetorulingtheworld.ca.

Contact Information

  • The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario
    Perry Jensen
    69 Bloor St. East Toronto, Ontario M4W 1B3
    416-969-4271 or 1-800-387-0735 ext. 271
    pjensen@icao.on.ca
    www.icao.on.ca