Description: Last week this space featured a discussion of a request by Statistics Canada to obtain banking information of Canadians without having approached those Canadians first. Of course, the opposition parties in Parliament were quick to criticize this apparent breach of protocol, though Statistics Canada had made efforts to brief the press beforehand. This week National Post columnist Andrew Coyne offered another view of the story, noting how political parties in Canada have plenty of personal information about us in their files. To make matters worse, the federal political parties have written the laws on privacy such that they do not apply to them.
Date: November 5, 2018
1) Were you aware of the volume of information the political parties can gather and their exemption from privacy legislation?
2) Have you ever worked on a political campaign? What sort of information did you have available to help the campaign?
3) How are donations to political parties treated in filing personal income tax returns?
Description: With fuel costs per litre up close to 40% over last year, WestJet’s latest earning report is not pleasant reading for shareholders. Profits are down this quarter. In addition to the fuel cost pressures, the threatened pilots’ strike in May probably impacted passenger bookings. And, like others in the industry, WestJet feels the intense pressure of low-cost providers.
Date: October 30, 2018
1) Have you ever flown WestJet? How would you rate this airline compared to others?
2) From reading this article, what would you say are some of the key challenges faced by airlines in setting ticket prices?
3) Take a look at the opening vignette in Chapter Nine of Wiley’s Financial Accounting: Tools for Business Decision-Making. What does WestJet use as the useful life of its airplanes in calculating depreciation?
Description: It’s been a source of dispute between Newfoundland and Quebec for many years. But the Supreme Court ruled this week that there is no need to reopen the 65 year agreement covering the Churchill Falls hydro development. The problem is that Hydro Quebec has earned about 27.5 billion dollars from the project because the price it pays Newfoundland actually decreases over time. Newfoundland has earned about $2 billion over the same time period.
Date: November 2, 2018
1) Had you ever heard of this Churchill Falls problem? After reading the linked article, where do you stand on this dispute?
2) What lessons can an accounting student learn from this dispute?
3) What are some of the significant challenges associated with planning massive capital projects like this?
Description: Statistics Canada says that our banking information is “carefully protected and never shared publicly.” But with the headlines full of data breach stories, news that Statistics Canada has been asking the banks for our banking information – without asking us first – was grabbing attention this past week. Opposition politicians are piling on the Liberal government on this story and the privacy commissioner has started an investigation into the matter.
Date: October 31, 2018
1) Are you concerned that your banking information may have been shared with Statistics Canada without your approval?
2) Do you feel confident in the assurance over data secrecy provided by Statistics Canada?
3) The article has a picture of a citizen about to make a purchase via a bank card. What type of control activities would you expect to see over such a transaction? See page 360 of Wiley’s Financial Accounting: Tools for Business Decision-Making.
Description: In a bold move, Starbucks had opened a location in Washington, D.C. where customers can order using American Sign Language. The store is located near to Gallaudet University, a preeminent institution for the deaf and hard of hearing student population. Other features to enable better communication include two-way consoles that will permit customers to dialogue with the baristas.
Date: October 23, 2018
1) Do you know how to communicate with American Sign Language?
2) What are some challenges faced by the deaf and hard of hearing student population on a university campus?
3) Take a look at the concept of the Balanced Scorecard in Wiley’s Managerial Accounting: Tools for Business Decision-Making. How might a move to open a store like this one be reflected in a balanced scorecard at Starbucks?
Description: Exxon calls it “baseless allegations.” But the New York Attorney General is moving ahead with a lawsuit, saying Exxon deliberately understated the potential liability for dealing with carbon costs in Canada’s oil sands. Right now the Attorney General is floating a figure of approximately $30 billion in understatements. The aim of the legal claim seems to be to force Exxon to return money to investors who may have not had the correct information on which to base their investment decisions.
Date: October 26, 2018
1) Were you aware of this legal suit? What is your opinion on who is right and who is wrong?
2) How would accountants develop estimates for these carbon costs?
3) If you were an auditor, how would you go about developing an audit program to verify these cost estimates? What sort of audit engagement would this be? (Hint: See chapter one in Wiley’s Auditing: A Practical Approach.)
Description: In Nova Scotia, the RCMP have now laid charges against James Edward Marlow, for allegedly misappropriating at least $243,000 from the Coady Institute. The Coady Institute, on the campus of St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, is known for its work in training for international development efforts. The fraud was detected by an auditor who investigated a situation where a supplier received payment despite having not issued the related invoice. Apparently, the payment had been designated “hold for pickup” but somehow it found its way Into the mail. It would seem that cheques in the “hold for pickup” category were “picked up” by the perpetrator of the fraud and deposited to his own account. See additional details at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/st-f-x-coady-institute-jim-james-marlow-misappropriation-of-funds-1.4808643
Date: October 25, 2018
1) Why do you think the auditor followed through on this issue of the supplier receiving payment for an invoice that they had never sent out?
2) What type of lessons do you think an organization can learn from such an incident?
3) In Wiley’s Auditing: A Practical Approach you can read about the fraud triangle. How might the three sides of the fraud triangle been in play in this situation?
Description: In Canada right now there are about 33,000 cellphone towers. That may seem like a lot, but with telecommunications providers moving towards 5G networks, estimates have it that Canada will need over 270,000 so-called small cells in the next few years. These devices, about the size of a briefcase, are intended for placement in Canadian towns and cities. With municipalities and the federal government both having some say in what goes where, it will be interesting to see how the costs for 5G will add up.
Date: October 19, 2018
Source: financial post.com
1) Have you ever seen one of these 5G small cells? Have you ever been on the campus of UBC, for instance?
2) How would a managerial accountant go about costing the implementation of a new 5G network? Based on the article, what would be some costs that would have to be included?
3) Take a look at Chapter 9 in Wiley’s Financial Accounting: Tools for Business Decision-Making. What might you see as the way to determine the useful life to be used in calculating depreciation of a 5G network?
Description: In many locations in Canada last Wednesday lines formed outside retail establishments as customers queued up to purchase marijuana on the first day of legal sales. One enterprising Edmonton Girl Scout spotted an opportunity. Nine year old Elina Childs visited the line with her Girl Guide cookies and quickly sold out her supply to those standing in line.
Date: October 18, 2018
1) What do you think of Elina’s big sales day? Why do some people seem to see entrepreneurial opportunities where others don’t?
2) Was marijuana available Wednesday in your university town? What were the lines like?
3) How will Canadian governments account for this new marijuana revenue stream? Hint: Check out Module 3 in Wiley’s Advanced Accounting..
Description: One of the big factors in pension accounting is the discount rate. For the last couple of years, the Auditor General of Canada has expressed concern that the federal government may be using a rate that is too high. The government has decided to respond to his concerns by adopting a higher rate, meaning that the federal deficit will be higher than expected.
Date: October 19, 2018
1) As you look forward to your career after graduation, what employee benefits are you looking for?
2) The article notes a government executive stated “We are modernizing our accounting to make it more businesslike, per the auditor general’s recommendations.” Do you think governments should use the same accounting rules as business?
3) Where do pension obligations fit on a company’s statement of financial position? Check out page 62 in Wiley’s Financial Accounting: Tools for Business Decision-Making.