27 June 2014

Road to the CPA: the CMA route

Now that Ontario has secured three-way agreement for the Chartered Professional Accountant designation to go ahead, maybe it's time to reflect on the history of the various legacy designations that led to it. I'm afraid the story is rather incomplete: the history of the Canadian accounting profession is rather opaque, with few scholars having investigated it, the few published histories that do exist are of the corporate variety, and many source materials are still relatively unavailable on the Web.

Let's start with the designation of which I am most familiar: mine. The Society of Management Accountants of Canada (touting itself these days as CMA Canada), has actually been around since 1920:

It's interesting to see that it started out being sponsored by the CICA's predecessor, the Dominion Association of Chartered Accountants, and the first mention of its existence appeared in the Canadian Chartered Accountant in 1920:

Of special importance is who was qualified to join the Society, as expressed in By-Law 1:
 "Any person resident in Canada, being a member in good standing of any public body of accountants incorporated under the authority of the Legislature of any Province of Canada, and any other person, resident in Canada, being of the full age of twenty-one years, and certified by his employer or two other reputable persons to be occupied in an accounting capacity, may, upon application to the Board, be admitted a member of the Society."
Now that is something I never knew: chartered accountants were our first members, and they occupied all the positions of the first Board. It has been mentioned elsewhere that, in reality, this was a move by the CAs to occupy the field of cost accounting before the CGAs had a chance to step in.

Although incorporated in May 1920, the inaugural meeting did not occur until mid-September that year:

The Society started holding examinations for those studying cost accounting in 1927, but it was not until 1941 that it started to confer the designation "Registered Industrial and Cost Accountant" (or "RIA"), and that only after provincial societies were formed in Ontario and Quebec:

The designation was not consistently applied across the country. In Alberta, for example, it was "Registered Industrial Accountant" as early as 1944. Ontario would not follow until 1967:

The designation later became "Certified Management Accountant" (or "CMA") , to reflect our broader role. In Ontario, approval was received in 1981 for this, but implementation was withheld until all other provinces came on board, which was not until July 1985.

Fast forward to today: consolidation occurred in Quebec in May 2012, New Brunswick will see it happen at the beginning of September, and Saskatchewan has enabling legislation ready to be proclaimed once the organizational bylaws are ready to be brought into effect. It appears that consolidation of the various professional accounting bodies in  the rest of the provinces will come about this fall. However, from our point of view, CMAs are returning to the fold.

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