A Tradition of Excellence History of the Association
A Tradition of Excellence Founded in 1908, Canada’s Certified General Accountants Association has been this country’s fastest growing professional accounting body for the past four decades. It is a self-regulating body comprised of professional accountants and financial managers engaged in industry, public sector and public practice.
Today, the CGA Association is the professional body of choice for 75,000 certified members and students in Canada and abroad.
Its history dates back 105 years, when John Leslie founded the General Accountants Association in Montreal and became its first president. The first members had a common interest in improving the practices and standards of those engaged in all areas of accounting. The Association was incorporated by an Act of Parliament in 1913.
The national body set up a Manitoba branch in Winnipeg in 1937. This branch was operated until 1951, when it was incorporated as the Certified Public Accountants Association of Manitoba. The new organization kept a strong affiliation with the General Accountants Association of Canada. In 1965, this affiliation came to an end as the Certified Public Accountants Association of Manitoba merged with the Institute of Chartered Accountants.
The following year, a branch of the Association was re-established in the province to answer a continuing demand for the professional program. The Certified General Accountants’ Association of Ontario administered the Manitoba branch until 1968. That year, the national body introduced a Prairie Region concept, with administration for Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta headquartered in Calgary. For the next six years, Manitoba operated as a branch of the Prairie Region.
The most significant achievement of CGA-Canada during this period came about through the evolution of the certification program. With the assistance of the University of British Columbia, long the Association’s curriculum coordinator, the program of studies was enhanced and the concept of program options introduced. This advancement provided the CGA student with the means to become a competent authority in a variety of specialized areas.
The Early Years
In 1972, with a membership of 200 students and 30 graduates, the Manitoba branch lobbied the government for legislative incorporation. At the spring 1973 session of the Manitoba legislature, Bill 36, “An Act to Incorporate the Certified General Accountants Association of Manitoba,” was presented. On May 25, the bill received third and final reading, followed by Royal Assent. CGA Manitoba was official. Bill 36 recognized both the professional accounting and auditing qualifications of CGA members. It also provided for lay representation on the Board of Governors, the first professional statute in Manitoba to incorporate this provision.
In the following months, the new Board of Governors evaluated the administrative needs of the Association, which had previously been serviced by the Prairie Region office. A special general meeting was held in October and it was determined that CGA Manitoba should become an autonomous administrative body on July 1, 1974.
During the same 1973-74 period, CGA Manitoba held formal discussions with the Society of Industrial and Cost Accountants of Manitoba on the possibility of a merger. Similar discussions were carried out between these two organizations in each of the other provinces and at the National level. CGA Manitoba concluded that the internal focus of the Society of Industrial and Cost Accountants was incompatible with the broader professional practice goals of CGA. Merger talks were terminated in August, 1974, both provincially and nationally.
The following year, in response to a growing membership in Western Manitoba, the Association established its first chapter outside Winnipeg—in Brandon. CGA Manitoba also secured representation on the newly reorganized National Education Committee of CGA-Canada. Professional affiliations were established with the University of Manitoba and all community colleges in the province. The Association adopted a uniform national code of ethics, the first of its kind in Canada.
Enrolment in the Association’s education program grew dramatically in the fall of 1977—the total of 900 students represented a record increase of 42.7%. Earlier in the year, the Association established a chapter in Northern Manitoba. At the same time, CGA-Canada approved a uniform national practical experience standard.
1978 saw CGA Manitoba introduce a mandatory continuing education requirement, a first for the accounting profession in this country. It compelled members to demonstrate that they were continuing their professional education. Acceptance of this obligation demonstrated the members’ commitment to keep abreast of change, thus ensuring the public of the highest level of competence and performance. Also in 1978, the National Association formalized its affiliation with the provincial bodies at its National Conference. The formal agreement recognized policy and administrative responsibilities that existed in practice amongst the parties. It provided the basis for continued co-operation, integral to the success of a rapidly evolving CGA profession.
In 1979, CGA-Canada added more flexibility to the education program through the introduction of a trimester calendar which permitted more frequent exam offerings and eliminated concurrent course requirements. In order to take advantage of new technology CGA Manitoba conducted a computer feasibility study, which led to the acquisition of a minicomputer early in 1980. This enabled the Association to expand its services through the computerization and integration of member, student and financial systems.
Manitoba hosted its first National CGA Conference in August, 1980, setting a national record for attendance at such an event. Also that year, the Association became the first accounting body in Manitoba to introduce mandatory peer reviews and professional liability insurance for public accounting firms. Under self-imposed regulations, all firms were inspected on a regular basis, with the first reviews conducted in 1981.
CGA Manitoba took another major step in 1982 when it acquired land and constructed a new 10,000 square foot building at Four Donald Street in Winnipeg. The Association undertook this initiative to provide superior services to the members and students over future years, at a cost protected from inflationary pressures. In November, 1982, CGA Manitoba moved into its new premises and immediately began to realize its great potential.
In May, 1983, the Association’s tenth anniversary was celebrated. Over the 10-year period, CGA membership had increased five-fold to 1650 and student enrolment eclipsed that of its well-established competitors. New chapters were formed in Pembina Valley, Portage la Prairie and Dauphin; the Northman Chapter was sub-divided into Swan River, The Pas, Flin Flon and Thompson. This first decade tested and tempered the resolve of CGA Manitoba, and it emerged as an eminent professional body in the province.
Peter Drucker stated that “one of the most important things an organization must frequently do is determine exactly what business it is in.” In 1984, with graduate membership increasing about 15% per year, CGA Manitoba set up a special task force on Association services. The task force identified member motivations and needs, as well as aids and barriers to services. What resulted was a reorganization of the Association into three operating divisions in order of priority, as determined by the membership: Education, Standards and Public Affairs.
At the national level, a paradigm shift was underway in education. Planning began on development and introduction of a new certification platform, later dubbed Program 90. This $3.5 million endeavour became the first professional certification program in the world to fully integrate microcomputer technology into its course of studies. Implementation of the new program, phased in during the period 1986-1990, redefined CGA education and set a new standard for training accounting professionals. Shortly thereafter, a New Zealand University study ranked the CGA accounting program as one of the two most technologically advanced in the world.
In 1987, CGA Manitoba hosted its second National CGA Conference, which proved to be another huge success. At the request of CGA-Canada and other CGA provincial affiliates, Manitoba opened talks with the Institute of Accredited Public Accountants of Manitoba to consider possible amalgamation. The matter was concluded in February, 1988, when CGA Manitoba absorbed 35 members of the Institute.
With an ever increasing demand for professional staff support, the Association engaged a Director of Education to expand services and pursue closer links with the post secondary learning institutions in the province. In 1987, the Association donated $125,000 to the Faculty of Management at the University of Manitoba for the funding of a 90-seat lecture theatre, which carries the Association’s name.
Entering the 90s
With many changes taking place in both professional standards and the self-regulatory environment, the Association began work in the late 1980s on a complete review of its self-regulatory system. Manitoba’s Attorney General prepared a draft CGA Act in March of 1989 and the Legislature approved it in June, 1990. The new Public Act, which was proclaimed on Canada Day, 1990, expanded the self-regulatory powers of the Association on par with those of the other major professions.
The Association was given powers such as immediate suspensions of membership if deemed to be in the public interest, appointment of a custodian where a member is unable to operate their practice, and the ability to recover costs associated with disciplinary matters.
Over the years, the Association provided annual scholarships and awards to college, university and CGA students. In 1990, in conjunction with its annual conference, CGA Manitoba established the Scholarship Trust Fund as a registered charity to administer the awards.
CGA-Canada made substantial changes to the National Affiliation Agreement in 1990 to reflect evolving policy and administrative responsibilities, as well as the expanding nature of international operations. The revised document was signed by all Affiliates in June of the following year.
During 1991, CGA-Canada undertook a major restructuring of mandatory continuing professional education policy in order to harmonize standards with CGA Affiliates. The Manitoba Association introduced a popular program called “Sharing Expertise,” designed to encourage members to participate in voluntary community activities. The program matched CGA volunteers with the needs of community organizations. In September of 1991, CGA Manitoba retired the mortgage on its building, which had been constructed only nine years earlier. This left the Association debt-free and with a substantial capital asset value. A new chapter encompassing the Winnipeg River area was established, bringing the total number of Manitoba chapters to nine.
Now regarded as one of the most progressive organizations in Canada, CGA Manitoba reached another milestone in May, 1993: its 20th anniversary. Coincident with this, the Association announced the 1000th graduate of its program of studies.
CGA Manitoba took part in joint meetings with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Manitoba and the Society of Management Accountants of Manitoba to discuss reserved-practice rights and the regulation of public accounting in the province. No changes were brought forward as a result of the review. The CGA Board approved the acquisition and installation of a local area information technology network to improve internal communication and efficiency of information delivery.
With the addition of a Director of Professional Affairs in August, 1993, the Association set out to expand member services. They introduced the Executive Development Program, in partnership with the Faculty of Management at the University of Manitoba, to provide executive-skills training for members, with MBA credit. CGA also affiliated with the Human Resource Management Association and the Treasury Management Association in order to broaden the scope of continuing professional education offerings for 1994-95.
Student enrolment in Manitoba grew another 3% in 1994, making the CGA education program larger than the combined total of the other professional accounting bodies. Asked to comment on a discussion paper on occupational regulation prepared by the Law Reform Commission, the Association submitted an extensive analysis and response. CGA Manitoba also presented a paper in support of professional mobility and was pleased to note that the First Ministers reached an agreement on internal trade in July, 1994. CGA Manitoba played host to its third National Conference in Winnipeg that same summer.
The 1990s engulfed the Association in a wave of change unprecedented in history; new technology, a new economy and new political systems emerged in many parts of the world. Amid this turbulence, CGA adopted a strategic plan to guide the profession into the next millennium. “Initiative 21,” presented to the National Board in June of 1995, was designed to chart a course for the CGA profession.
In 1995, CGA Manitoba provided a coordinated response on the Report of the Law Reform Commission in conjunction with several other professional bodies. That fall, CGA Manitoba gathered information on member needs for electronic communication and established its first Internet service in conjunction with CGA-Canada.
Over the years, CGA Manitoba sought and achieved a systematic revision of restrictive legislation regarding practice rights in the province. The last two pieces of legislation of concern to CGAs were the Public Schools Act and Section 34 of the Securities Act. In 1996, the Public Schools Act was amended and a Securities Order was made to remove that restriction.
CGA also was invited to participate in the newly established Financial Planners Standards Council of Canada. This new organization, comprised of professional groups in the investment accounting and related areas, undertook to issue the CFP (Certified Financial Planner) designation and regulate it through member bodies like CGA. CGA-Canada and Affiliate bodies across Canada approved new rules for entry to public practice, as well as provision for mobility of accountants among Affiliates.
At the Manitoba Association’s 1996 annual meeting in September, members approved a new Statement of Ethical Principles and Rules of Conduct (CEPROC). The Association also made changes to its governance structure relating to nominating procedures for the Executive Committee and created a new Professional Affairs Committee.
In 1997, CGA’s leadership in accounting education was featured in the International Federation of Accountants newsletter, which is sent to member professional bodies in 83 countries. The article carried the headline, “CGA Transforms Accounting Education.”
CGA introduced Internet CD technology into its course of studies, allowing students to access an online national course tutor and submit assignments for marking via the Internet. CGA signed agreements with IBM Global Network Services and Microsoft to bring the latest software tools to every student’s desktop. A record number of 101 students completed the Association’s professional program during the year.
Early in 1998, CGA Manitoba added a full-time Information Technology Manager to its staff to improve the effectiveness of several out-sourced functions and support the Association’s commitment to technology services. A coalition of four health-based professions and CGA, having lobbied the government for change, was rewarded with new government policy changes enabling CGA professionals to establish professional corporations. As CGA Manitoba celebrated its 25th year in May, the CGA designation had reached another milestone in the province.
In the fall of 1998 CGA-Canada introduced a university degree as an exit requirement to the accreditation process. Through the creation of an innovative partnership with the University of Calgary, any student entering the program without a degree could acquire a Bachelor of Accounting Science (BAccS) prior to completing the CGA professional program. By integrating the degree with the CGA courses, the Association maintained its open-access policy, a hallmark of the profession, yet provided a means for every student to acquire a business degree and a professional designation simultaneously.
In the spring of 1999, approval was given by the Board to enter into partnership agreements with the Credit Institute of Canada as well as a private educational organization to provide educational services. The leveraging effect of these arrangements enabled CGA to improve services to students through additional staff and web based resources. The Association’s employment referral service was made available on the website, and response was immediately favourable. Funding was provided for the development of a state of the art theatre at Red River College, named the CGA Lecture Theatre.
In December, 1999 CGA Manitoba launched a decade-long initiative with the support of CGA-Canada which, in conjunction with extensive work undertaken by CGA Ontario, would eventually result in the reform of public accounting legislation in Ontario. CGA Manitoba asked the Manitoba Government to undertake consultations on its behalf with Ontario pursuant to Chapter Seven of the Agreement on Internal Trade. CGA complained that the Public Accountancy Act of Ontario and the way that it was administered prevented CGA members from Manitoba from being licensed to practice in Ontario. This matter would consume many months of work and resources over the next several years.
As the clock ushered in the year 2000 amidst the concern of Y2K, the Association was experiencing another banner year setting new membership and student enrolment records. In July, CGA-Canada released the report of the Task Force on the Future of the Profession. This report and its three key principles; embrace technology, act globally and be market driven, would guide the affiliate bodies in their strategic planning and service direction over the next few years.
The CGA Competency Framework, a competency based career self assessment tool for members, was launched mid-year. It was accompanied by the establishment of the Joint Professional Development Initiative, a partnership venture comprised of affiliates working to improve continuing professional development resources. The first in depth courses were introduced titled Tax in Focus and the Controllers Program. At the student level, CGA Manitoba introduced the Intermediate Accounting Diploma and was later successful in encouraging its adoption as a national benchmark to recognize students who complete level three and have appropriate practical experience.
Consultations throughout 2000 between the Manitoba Government and Ontario pursuant to the AIT failed to resolve the mobility and licensing issue raised by CGA Manitoba, and at the end of the year CGA asked the government to move to Chapter Seventeen dispute resolution. Manitoba declined to launch a formal government-to-government dispute under the AIT for political reasons, but offered to support CGA Manitoba in a person-to-government complaint. CGA Manitoba began this process in January 2001.
Building on the principles adopted in the Future of the Profession Report a year earlier, CGA affiliates agreed on a strategy for a common association management system. Innovations in education continued on several fronts, including online audio review lectures, a web based tutor system and the introduction of term marks for assignment work. To assist student recruitment, affiliates across the country joined forces to establish a CGA career website, ThinkCGA.org. The Association also introduced a new national logo in April 2001, the first time that a common logo had been implemented by all affiliates.
A pre hearing conference in respect of CGA Manitoba’s AIT complaint was held in Toronto in June 2001, followed by the formal hearing of the Trade Panel on August 20. The decision of the Panel was provided to the parties on October 5 but not made public until December. The Panel found that the Public Accountants Act and the way it was administered were inconsistent with the Agreement on Internal Trade. Coincident with the release of the Panel decision, an Ontario Red Tape Commission study undertaken during this period also recommended reform of the public accounting legislation in Ontario. Amending legislation was passed in December 2002, leaving regulations to be developed over the course of ensuing months.
2002 has been described as the perfect storm, with the collapse of several large entities in the US and inconsistencies in their financial reporting, public accounting firms came under scrutiny. New public oversight of the profession was quickly legislated in the US and steps were taken by the profession and securities regulators in Canada to allay concern. The silver lining to the debacle which befell the global markets in the days thereafter was heightened awareness of the need for reliable, global accounting standards, a message championed by CGA-Canada since 1999.
Following the principles adopted in the Future of the Profession Report, the CGA affiliates across the country approved significant changes to the Affiliation Agreement and CGA-Canada Governance in September, 2002. All professional standard setting was delegated to the National Professional Standards Committee and increased roles were also assigned with respect to professional development and common image. Two new university degree choices were integrated into the course of studies; a technology degree through the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) and an Honours Bachelor of Commerce through Laurentian University.
2003 set yet another milestone for the Association, celebrating the 30th anniversary and an organization representing 3,000 members and students, as the largest professional accounting body in Manitoba. Coincident with the Association’s anniversary, a $1,000,000 post-secondary funding commitment was announced to provide grants, scholarships and research to CGA Manitoba partner institutions.
In August, amendments were made to The Partnership Act to permit Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) to be established by CGAs, CAs and lawyers. Online education delivery was expanded, and the I.H. Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba approved a policy allowing CGA course transfer credit into their degree programs. CGA became the first and only non-academic organization to receive this status.
In 2004, CGA introduced edNet, a new online learning management system. It also launched new degree partnership programs with Laurentian University to provide a choice of an Honours Bachelor of Commerce or a Masters in Business Administration to students and to members. A newly developed CGA Lecture Theatre was opened at the I.H. Asper School of Business.
During the course of the 2004/05 year, a review of the CGA Code of Ethical Principles and Rules of Conduct (CEPROC) was undertaken to assure compliance with obligations as a member of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) as well as with the requirements of the Canadian Public Accountability Board (CPAB), and changes introduced in 2005 which included a comprehensive independence standard.
The University of Manitoba Senate approved a university wide transfer credit policy for CGA courses - expanding the exclusive recognition afforded to CGA earlier by the Asper School of Business. CGA continued its commitment to post-secondary institutions during the year, with the opening of the CGA Lecture Theatre at Assiniboine Community College in Brandon.
At the beginning of fiscal 2006, CGA Manitoba assumed the role of manager and host for the CGA Shared Services Facility Corporation (SSF), to provide information technology services to more than 10,000 members and students in eight of the smaller domestic CGA Affiliates as well as the Caribbean and China. Manitoba also undertook the administration of student services for CGA Saskatchewan, adding approximately 300 students to the existing 1,500 in Manitoba. By 2012, through the support of CGA Manitoba's student services team, the CGA Saskatchewan student body has increased to over 400 students.
On January 1, 2007, CGA Manitoba introduced a new compliance standard for continuing professional development, ensuring uniformity with internationally adopted changes mandated by IFAC. A Mutual Recognition Agreement was signed by CGA Manitoba with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) of the United Kingdom (UK). The ACCA is the world’s largest accounting body with representation in 170 countries. An agreement was also signed with Canadian Public Accountability Board (CPAB) to establish cooperation between the Association and CPAB with respect to the audit of public companies in Manitoba.
A partnership was created with Manitoba Labour and Immigration to develop and deliver an innovative co-op program to transition new immigrant internationally trained accountants. The program was an unqualified success in its first year and has been extended by the Manitoba Government. Other developments in education included the introduction of a new online practical experience reporting system and a pilot for the Blackboard learning management system, which was fully implemented in 2007/08.
To advance the level of web based services expected by members and students, the SSF implemented Aptify on July 1, 2007 as its enterprise-wide customer and member relationship management software. The new software enabled the provision of international member relationship management, e-Business, education and many other applications in a highly configurable platform. Building on earlier undertakings for post secondary support, the University of Brandon opened the CGA Conference Centre in the fall of 2007 in conjunction with the CGA Annual Conference hosted by the Westman Chapter.
In January, 2008 another international mutual recognition agreement was signed by CGA Manitoba. This time our partner is Certified Practising Accountant (CPA) Australia, the sixth largest accounting body in the world, which extends the global reach of our membership to Australia and some 17 countries in which CPA Australia conducts operations.
2008 marked the 35th anniversary of CGA Manitoba, and the 100th year since the founding of CGA-Canada. In Manitoba the Association continues to extend its lead as the largest accounting body in the province. CGA-Canada continues to expand our influence on the global front through representation at IFAC and through other international bodies.
It’s an interesting time for Certified General Accountants everywhere. With the experience of corporate turmoil at the beginning of the decade, the value and importance of the work accountants and auditors perform received unprecedented recognition. Demand for CGAs continued to rise across the business community, with many members sought after to hold the provinces’ most senior executive positions.
With CGA-Ontario finally being rewarded with practice rights in 2010, the Association finally achieved it long sought after and deserved goal of full rights across all Canadian jurisdictions - significantly altering the perception of Canada’s accounting profession. During that same year, as an indication of the CGA Manitoba’s rapid growth, more CGAs worked in the province of Manitoba than CAs and CMAs.
In 2011, under the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) legislation, CGA Manitoba worked closely with the Manitoba Government to remove the last impediment to unfettered national mobility rights for CGA’s licensed practitioners. A consensus decision by the AIT Panel led to the Ontario government recognizing the eminent qualifications of CGA practitioners and guaranteeing mobility for CGA practitioners wishing to serve clients in Ontario and across Canada.
In 2012, CGA Manitoba continued to be the accounting designation of choice in the province. Certified membership surpassed 2,000 and with a 27% increase in new student enrollment and unprecedented student retention, the Association's student body achieved an all-time high in excess of 1,600 students.
Celebrating 40 Years
As CGA Manitoba moves into its 40th anniversary year, it enjoys the status: as Manitoba’s largest professional accounting body; the program of choice amongst aspiring accountants, with record high student enrolments; and a thriving public practice sector with a growing number of firms and licensed practitioners.
Clouding the future is the uncertainty of the CPA merger. With many of the CGA affiliates choosing to enter the CPA merger, CGA Manitoba members will be asked to write the next chapter of their Association’s evolution.