CPA Ontario & Quebec Leaving CPA Canada – What?

You are probably here because you heard what happened in the Canadian CPA world this week: CPA Ontario and CPA Quebec announced they were leaving CPA Canada. I was chilling in the evening scrolling on my phone when I saw the news. My first thought: what now?

I immediately shared on my IG story with nothing but question marks in my head. Evidently hundreds of you were as shocked as I was based on the poll results. I (and many of you) got increasingly confused as I tried to find out more about the unexpected news because it seemingly came out of nowhere. Disclaimer, I am located in BC and pay dues to CPABC and CPA Canada (2023 – 2024: $600 for CPABC and $400 for CPA Canada). However, both as a CPA and someone who writes and shares about being one in Canada, this concerned me in more than one way. Some of the questions in my head were:

  • What does leaving CPA Canada mean?
  • What happened? Why can everyone sense tension?
  • What about CPA BC? Are we leaving CPA Canada?

I wish I can tell you I got the answers to all my question but I don’t. Based on what I have seen so far, it seems like no one else does.

If you are here thinking I know something you can’t find online, I want to apologize in advance because I don’t. The purpose of this post is to share with you what I was able to find from both sides and what I personally think. It’s all rather… unclear.

What Does CPA Canada Do?

When the news first broke, I immediately started wondering what CPA Canada did and oversaw. I knew their name was on the Board of Examiners’ Report that I became familiar with when I was prepping for CFE. I also knew they published the Pivot Magazine and host the annual The One Conference. However, if you asked me exactly what CPA Canada also oversaw prior to this week, I will tell you to give me a moment to Google.

Lucky for us, CPA Canada answered this question in detail in their Q&A this week. Here are some of what CPA Canada is responsible for:

  • developing and coordinating standards implementation
  • representing the profession in Canada with accounting groups across the globe
  • developing the education program for CPA certification along with the Provincial, Territorial and Bermudian bodies

Did CPA Canada Expect CPA Ontario and CPA Quebec to Leave Before The Public Announcements?

Pamela Steer, the president and CEO of CPA Canada, stated that CPA Canada was “not given any prior notice by either organization, only being informed minutes prior to a notice being sent to members.” This supports that CPA Canada found out the same time the public did.

Carol Wilding, Steer’s counterpart at CPA Ontario, suggested that the departure “should not be a surprise to (CPA) Canada” and that they were “as disappointed as anybody else.

The two statements are not necessarily contradictory: CPA Canada said they were notified only minutes before it was public while CPA Ontario said that the decision should have been expected anyways. One thing seemed clear: CPA Canada felt blindsided.

However, one thing the two sides seemed to agree on was that they had been in talks for years leading up to this. In their Q&A, CPA Ontario said the “decision came following extensive discussions over the past five years with other provincial and territorial CPA bodies, as well as with CPA Canada.” CPA Canada echoed the same thing in their Q&A.

The takeaway? This did not happen overnight.

Did CPA Ontario/Quebec Leave CPA Canada Because of the New Certification Program?

This was probably the most popular comment based on the chatter I see online and within my network. CPA Canada answered this question specifically on their Q&A published two days after the news first broke. According to CPA Canada, “the new certification process was not an issue in recent discussions.” The rest of the Q&A supports that CPA Canada does not believe CPA Ontario and CPA Quebec left because of the new program as they shared three primary issues that did not focus solely on the new program.

CPA Ontario’s press release and Q&A did not address the new certification program directly. As a result, we can only read between the lines. Regulation oversight, governance, financial transparency and accountability were specifically referred to by CPA Ontario as the key principles discussed during five years of discussions.

My personal and unsupported opinion? Even if the new certification program was one of the contributing reasons why the partnership broke down, it did not seem to be a sole or major driving force based on what has been released.

Is Business As Usual for Members? What About Students?

One thing that stood out to me when I was reading the Q&As was this:

  • CPA Ontario reassured members and students that for the two groups, business will be as usual throughout the 18-month withdrawal period
  • CPA Canada stated that what is happening now is not business as usual as The Collaboration Accord did not detail all the mechanisms when the withdrawal clause is triggered. They said the agreement signed in 2016 did not actually expect what happened was going to happen (ouch)

While I have no further insight on who is right (and they could both be right), I am sure a lot of work is ahead of the parties trying to figure out how and when the separation will take place. Amongst the two, the when is probably the easiest because the clause specified an 18-month withdrawal period. However, only time will tell what will happen next.

Is CPA BC Leaving CPA Canada Too? What About Other Provinces?

As of June 25, 2023, no other provincial CPA body has made any public departure announcement. Until the provincial body releases a statement, your guess is as good as mine.

Note, there is also no guarantee every province will release a statement. I suggest reaching out to your provincial body if you are concerned.

I Am A Current CPA PEP Candidate – What Should I Do?

First of all, I want to tell you how sorry I am if the recent news (both about the departure and the new certification program) affect the confidence you have in the CPA program negatively. Ever since there was increased chatter about the new certification program, I have had candidates telling me they were less sure if it was still worth it to finish PEP. While I don’t have a crystal ball and that everyone’s situation is different, I can tell you with confidence that I still have high hope for having a financially stable career as a CPA myself. As important as the journey to becoming a CPA is, your confidence, abilities and experience matter even more in the long run. Don’t let what happens to the program and the governance structure deter you from going after what you want. At the end of the day, there are only so many ways you can prepare an income statement. Regardless of what happens with the professional body that oversees our designations, your skills are yours to keep, develop and brag about!

However, more specifically about what you should do in light of the recent news, is to stay on top of your current PEP program. If you are already enrolled in PEP today, chances are you will write your CFE and finish your PERT under the current set up. This means nothing needs to change for you despite the recent news.

Remember, the new certification program is not expected to be released until 2025 and that the CFE as we know it will remain until at least Fall 2026. Since the governance change was only announced last week, this means the current partnership between CPA Canada and CPA Ontario and CPA Quebec will stay in place until the end of 2024. I personally think it is extremely unlikely for the national and provincial bodies to make drastic and unaccommodating changes to the PEP program without giving a lot of notice in advance.

So, my advice to PEP candidates is the same as what I shared in my earlier post: if I was in PEP now, I would try my best to schedule my modules to allow for at least two CFE writings before Fall 2026. This plan would allow me to fail CFE once and be able to try again before any change takes place.