Institute Of Chartered Accountants Of Ontario

Institute Of Chartered Accountants Of Ontario

December 11, 2007 15:06 ET

Ontario CAs Welcome Competition Bureau Report on Professions

Institute cites landmark provincial legislation as model for professional self-regulation

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Dec. 11, 2007) - The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario today welcomed the release of a major national review of regulation in professional services. The report by the federal Competition Bureau, entitled Self-regulated professions: Balancing competition and regulation, was commissioned to study whether current regulatory regimes help or hinder healthy competition within professions ranging from lawyers and real estate brokers to Chartered Accountants and others.

"We look forward to a detailed review of the Competition Bureau report, which has been many months in the making in consultation with the CA Institutes and other professional bodies," said Institute President and CEO Brian Hunt, FCA.

"However, we believe the Bureau should be satisfied with the way our profession is governed and regulated in Ontario. This is due in no small part to landmark legislation tabled by the McGuinty government in 2004 that enables competition in public accounting services while safeguarding high, internationally recognized standards that protect the public and safeguard our international trading partner commitments."

The Bureau's stated goal was to "examine the current regulations in place and determine the extent to which these regulations may restrict entry into (a) profession and/or conduct of professional members" in the context of the quality and cost of the services they provide.

"Ontario's system of public accounting regulation fosters a high-quality and competitive environment for professional accounting services," Hunt noted. As the accompanying chart illustrates, this exacting and important field is regulated by a new system characterized by:

- a governance framework created by an Act of the Provincial Legislature

- a role for Ontario's Attorney General in approving the necessary professional standards

- an independent oversight body called the Public Accountants Council (PAC), comprised of a majority of non-accountants, to develop those standards and provide an additional layer of public oversight, and

- vigorous competition between those accounting bodies authorized to provide public accounting services.

The advent of the PAC, Hunt noted, satisfies the report's call that '(accounting) regulators should consider allowing some professionals to offer more services than they currently do', by specifying the competencies required for all accounting bodies to compete on a level playing field in a way that protects the public.

"On a second Bureau observation relevant to our profession, we agree completely," Hunt added. The conclusion of the report's accounting section states that, 'To facilitate competition in public accounting services, the regulators in each province and territory should consider establishing minimum necessary competencies that public accountants should have and allowing members of all domestic and foreign accounting designations that meet this standard to offer public accounting services.'

Hunt said that this makes the case for requiring consistent, internationally recognized standards for all non-CAs who would practice public accounting. Such a reform would dissolve any barriers to labour mobility that still exist in Canada while ensuring uniformly high quality of service. It would also bring the country into line with the United States, where the Uniform Accounting Act has achieved the same effect across more than 40 states to date.

"By eliminating the current 'patchwork quilt' of public accounting standards, adopting internationally recognized, nationally consistent standards would eliminate labour mobility barriers, better protect investors and the public and enhance our international trade relationships - all while fostering competition for professional accounting services across a high level playing field," Hunt said.

"This is a two-way street. Such a reform would facilitate international mobility for Canadian public accountants as well as further clarifying entry rules for internationally trained accountants."

Finally, Hunt cited a specific report recommendation (page 53) that has also been addressed by the Ontario government's public accounting legislation. The recommendation reads that "The Ontario Public Accountants Council should be flexible when applying the new standards under the Public Accounting Act in order to give members of all accounting designations who have the equivalent training and education the right to practice public accounting."

"The PAC does not impose 'one accounting body's detailed mandatory curriculum on others...' as suggested in the preamble to this recommendation, but rather identifies the professional competencies required to enable competition while protecting the public. Participating accounting bodies are simply required to show that they can attain these competencies - a process to which they readily agreed."

About the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario:

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario is the qualifying and regulatory body of Ontario's more than 32,000 CAs and 4,000 CA students. Since 1879, the Institute has protected the public interest through the CA profession's high standards of qualification and the enforcement of its rules of professional conduct. Recognized internationally, the CA designation denotes financial expertise, strategic thinking, business insight and leadership. The Institute website is: www.icao.on.ca and the student website is www.ca2b.biz.

To view the accompanying chart, please visit the following link:

http://www.ccnmatthews.com/docs/icao1211.pdf

Contact Information