I try to encourage my students to consider some degree of political engagement. One reason for this is because I generally teach commerce students, whom I believe are seriously underrepresented at all levels of political office. Even more underrepresented are those who obtain a professional accounting designation, following their commerce studies.
In the entire history of the Canadian House of Commons, there have only been 24 members who were Chartered Accountants and only 2 Certified Management Accountants. There were no Certified General Accountants listed, though I believe that Alfonso Gagliano, while describing his occupation as “accountant”, may have in fact been a Certified General Accountant. I know that former Reform/Canadian Alliance/Conservative Member of Parliament John Willaims, who also identified himself as an “accountant”, is in fact a Certified General Accountant and has been honoured by CGA-Canada for utilizing his professional accounting background in his parliamentary role.
The foregoing may be compared with 851 Members of Parliament who have listed “lawyer” as at least one of their occupations. Former Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament Doug Lewis is listed as both a lawyer and a Chartered Accountant.
You can verify the numbers yourself, or check other occupational categories, through a parliamentary occupation search tool.
Subject to parliamentarians identifying themselves as “accountant” rather than “Certified Management Accountant”, former Reform/Canadian Alliance/Conservative Member of Parliament Randy White is only one of two Certified Management Accountants to ever sit in the House of Commons. The other is currently sitting Liberal Member of Parliament Navdeep Singh Bains. Chartered Accountants are currently represented by longstanding Liberal Member of Parliament Paul Szabo and Bloc Québecois member Serge Cardin. Two former Liberal Members of Parliament, who were the only other Chartered Accountants in the House of Commons from 1993 to the present, were Roy Cullen and Alex Shepherd. A notable federal finance minister was Liberal Edgar Benson–a Chartered Accountant and one of the few finance ministers in Canadian history with a professional accounting background. In its more distant past, the NDP has had two Chartered Accountants sit with their party: David Stupich and Alistair Stewart. My party, the Conservative Party, through its Reform/Canadian Alliance roots and to the present, has never had a caucus member who was a Chartered Accountant. However, through its Progressive Conservative roots, six Chartered Accountants have sat as Members of Parliament, including the previously-noted Doug Lewis, who is also a lawyer. Another notable Member of Parliament whom I now know was a Chartered Accountant, despite listing herself as “accountant” is Progressive Conservative Ellen Fairclough. She had conducted her own Chartered Accountancy practice prior to being elected to the House of Commons. She was the first female Cabinet Minister in Canada, as well as Canada’s first Acting Prime Minister.
It seems that the general path to political office is via an arts degree, followed in many instances by legal studies and formal admission to one of the provincial law societies. It would appear that the level of professional screening is far more rigorous in professional accounting that in law. It is therefore regrettable that more professional accountants have either not chosen to stand for election to federal public office or have not been elected.
Surprisingly, a level of professional qualification and related accomplishment is absent from the current Canadian political leadership, across party lines. Neither the Prime Minister nor any of the opposition leaders is professionally qualified as a lawyer–or, for that matter, has any professional qualifications of any sort.
Postscript, August 28, 2012: In researching the current state of democracy in Egypt, I discovered that one of the leading Opposition politicians, Mohamed Abu Hamed, is a Chartered Accountant. Among other concerns, he is calling for an investigation into the financing of the governing Muslim Brotherhood. Potential example of some of what a professional accountant can bring to elected office.