CPA conference biggest ever

Keynote speakers deliver work-life balance message, CPA honours best in profession
By Melissa Mancini
|Canadian Payroll Reporter|Last Updated: 07/06/2011

Making sure people get paid is not a simple task.

“(Payroll is) a legislation-driven job and the reality is there is stress related to it and we try to help people deal with it,” said Canadian Payroll Association (CPA) president Patrick Culhane.

About 1,000 payroll professionals took time away from the office last month and attended the CPA’s conference in Edmonton, taking professional development sessions on everything from compliant termination processes to motivating intergenerational employees.

The keynote speakers talked about managing in stressful situations, said Culhane.

“The keynotes had a message of work hard but have fun and keep life in balance,” he said.

That’s important advice to keep top of mind in an industry with about 190 governing pieces of legislation where many professionals work alone, he said.

The conference, which took place June 9 and 10 in Edmonton, was the CPA’s biggest ever, with the most industry delegates the annual meeting has ever seen, said Culhane.

“It was fantastic,” he said.

The role of a payroll professional in 2011

Payroll is a tough job, said Richard Rousseau, vice-president of sales and industry relations at DLGL and winner of the CPA’s 2011 Diana Ferguson Award.

“Payroll is not like it used to be 20 years ago where it was just a few taxes and that was it — now there (are multiple) legislations,” he said.

The complexity of legislation in Canada means professionals who are  administering payroll to employees in different jurisdictions have a lot to think about, said Rousseau.

“If someone has to do payroll across the country, that professional has to be aware of all the legislation. One mistake on the… paycheque, that’s it, it’s an issue,” said Rousseau.

In a unionized environment, payroll problems could mean a strike, so there is always pressure to deliver with payroll in a timely, accurate manner, he said.

And the scope of the job is expanding for payroll professionals. Many are taking on benefits administration and other roles within companies, said Janice MacLellan, director of industry relations at ADP Canada and winner of this year’s retiring director award.
Some juggle the responsibilities of payroll along with other HR related functions, she said.

“We’ve sure come a long way from just being considered payroll clerks,” she said.

Ben Wentzell, retired director of the HR and compliance group at Carswell, a Thomson Reuters business (publishers of Canadian Payroll Reporter) and winner of the CPA’s 2011 special contributor award, said he believes the duties of payroll professionals will evolve to include more benefits-related tasks.

“Taxes are inevitable so that will always be present,” he said.

Wentzell added he believes payroll professionals will continue to evolve and will have a wider influence on their organizations with issues like benefits.

“Payroll is different than compensation,” he said. “It’s unique but parallel.”

Award winners link CPA with government, industry

The CPA’s relationships with government and businesses such as Carswell are always developing and changing, said award recipients.

Wentzell played a key role in managing the strategic relationship between Carswell and the CPA for 20 years, according to the CPA.

This relationship meant decisions that were not always easy, such as when Carswell decided to stop teaching payroll courses independently.

“We decided if we really wanted to show support we couldn’t be in competition with the CPA,” he said.

Now Carswell is contracted to teach courses for the CPA, a decision that was tough but critically important, said Wentzell.
Award winners Rousseau and MacLellan were chosen because they are “stalwarts” in their support of the relationship between the association and government bodies, said Culhane.

The association has extremely good relationships with payroll legislating ministries in Quebec, said Rousseau.
“We’re on the right track… they don’t perceive us as lobbyists they perceive us as facilitators to help them in accomplishing their objectives,” he said.

The role of the payroll professional is one of utmost importance in an organization, said Rousseau.

“Payroll professionals are as important as accountants, as lawyers because of all the legislation that has to be applied you have to be aware of what’s going on,” he said.

CPA awards round-up

Diana Ferguson Award
— Richard Rousseau, vice-president of sales and industry relations, D.L.G.L. Limited