A trade panel has ruled in favour of four Western provinces, against Ontario, in a dispute over the inter-provincial mobility of certified general accountants.

A panel has ruled on a dispute between Manitoba and Ontario regarding labour mobility for certified CGAs. In July 2011, Manitoba (which was supported by Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan) requested a panel to assess Ontario’s measures that subjected CGAs, certified by other provinces, to an additional assessment in order to become certified in Ontario.

Ontario argued that material differences exist among the provinces in the licensing standards for CGAs. So, to protect consumers, they argued that qualifications of individual applicants should be assessed against Ontario’s public accounting certification requirements. Manitoba objected on the grounds that the Ontario licensing regime causes injury to CGAs certified in other provinces wishing to practise public accounting in Ontario and is inconsistent with the AIT. Manitoba was joined by Alberta, BC and Saskatchewan as intervenors.

The panel found that Ontario’s measures are inconsistent with the Agreement on Internal Trade, and that they cannot be justified as necessary to achieve a legitimate objective. It recommends that Ontario withdraw the measures; and that it ensure that its regulatory authorities comply with the province’s obligations under the trade agreement, specifically by allowing CGAs certified to practise public accounting in the jurisdictions to be certified to practise public accounting in Ontario without any requirement for any material additional training, experience, examinations or assessments. And, that Ontario bring itself into compliance by April 15.

It also recommends that the provinces reinvigorate consultations with each other directly or through the appropriate regulatory authorities, to develop a consistent standard for public accountants across the country. And, it says that Ontario should carefully consider all provisions of the trade agreement in its efforts, and those of its regulatory bodies, to revise its measures with respect to public accounting.

“For ten years, B.C. has led Canada in red-tape reduction and this development will remove needless restrictions on our CGAs,” said Pat Bell, BC’s Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation.