The mar­kets today

The Prince George Citizen - - AT HOME -

(CP) — Canada’s largest stock in­dex set a new record Fri­day buoyed by en­ergy and gold stocks, as Wall Street ad­vanced on strong tech­nol­ogy earn­ings. The S&P/TSX com­pos­ite moved up 61.88 points to 15,953.51, break­ing a pre­vi­ous high of 15,922.37 set on Feb. 21. Shares in oil and gas com­pa­nies led the charge, with en­ergy “hav­ing a re­ally good day,” said Peggy Bowie, se­nior eq­uity trader at Man­ulife As­set Man­age­ment. The en­ergy sec­tor gained on av­er­age 2.61 per cent as the price of oil rose, with the De­cem­ber crude con­tract gain­ing US$1.26 to US$53.90 per bar­rel. “It’s def­i­nitely, I would have to say, buoy­ancy on the hope of growth,” Bowie said of the com­mod­ity’s up­ward move­ment. The prom­ise of growth in the Amer­i­can mar­ket cou­pled with OPEC’s up­com­ing Novem­ber meet­ing where mem­bers may de­cide to ex­tend their pro­duc­tion cuts is mov­ing the price of oil, she said. Shares in the gold sec­tor also helped lift the TSX, gain­ing 0.72 per cent on av­er­age, as the De­cem­ber gold con­tract ad­vanced US$2.20 to US$1,271.80 an ounce. On Wall Street, two in­dices had record-set­ting growth. The S&P 500 in­dex ad­vanced 20.67 points to 2,581.07 and the Nas­daq com­pos­ite in­dex climbed 144.49 points to 6,701.26.

OTTAWA — The hu­man re­sources and pen­sion man­age­ment firm at the cen­tre of the con­flict-of-in­ter­est con­tro­versy rag­ing around Fi­nance Min­is­ter Bill Morneau broke its si­lence with a flour­ish Fri­day, deny­ing stren­u­ously any sug­ges­tion that it has ben­e­fited from hav­ing its for­mer boss in cabi­net.

Op­po­si­tion crit­ics have been at­tack­ing Morneau over his links to Toronto-based Morneau She­p­ell, urg­ing the fed­eral ethics watch­dog to in­ves­ti­gate the fact that min­is­ter spear­headed pen­sion re­form leg­is­la­tion that could ben­e­fit both the com­pany and the man who used to run it.

How­ever, the only thing Morneau shares with Morneau She­p­ell these days is a name, the com­pany said in a state­ment aimed at coun­ter­ing “a grow­ing amount of mis­in­for­ma­tion” about the firm and its con­tracts with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

“Morneau She­p­ell sev­ered all con­tact with Fi­nance Min­is­ter Bill Morneau upon his elec­tion to the House of Com­mons in Oc­to­ber 2015; this in­cludes any dis­cus­sions about his fi­nan­cial in­vest­ments,” the state­ment said.

“Morneau She­p­ell wins busi­ness be­cause we are good at what we do. We stand be­hind our suc­cess in the open, trans­par­ent, com­pet­i­tive process for gov­ern­ment con­tracts.”

Nor was the com­pany ever con­sulted about Bill C-27, the leg­is­la­tion in­tro­duced by Morneau that now has ethics com­mis­sioner Mary Daw­son – who signed off on the min­is­ter’s de­ci­sion to forgo a blind trust for his con­sid­er­able as­sets – dou­ble-check­ing for signs of con­flict.

The firm ac­knowl­edged Fri­day that it has ex­pressed its sup­port for the con­cepts in the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion, but it doesn’t ex­pect a wind­fall if the leg­is­la­tion be­comes law.

“Bill C-27 is not ex­pected to have a ma­te­rial im­pact on our com­pany,” the state­ment said. “If passed, it would al­low fed­er­ally reg­u­lated pen­sion plans the op­tion to im­ple­ment target ben­e­fit pen­sion plans. They would not be re­quired to do so.”

Sev­eral prov­inces have adopted sim­i­lar laws, but few em­ploy­ers have changed their pen­sion sys­tems, the com­pany said.

The state­ment re­futes me­dia re­ports that sug­gest Morneau She­p­ell ob­tained and re­newed con­tracts with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment after the Lib­er­als came to of­fice. All con­tracts were awarded fairly and com­pet­i­tively, and “nearly all” of them were awarded when the Con­ser­va­tives were in power, the com­pany said.

“In the in­ter­ests of the thou­sands of Cana­di­ans who we proudly em­ploy and the mil­lions of Cana­di­ans who ben­e­fit from our ser­vices, we are re­stat­ing the fol­low­ing facts,” the state­ment be­gins.

It ends with this: “While we un­der­stand that we can­not al­ways con­trol the con­text of how our name is ref­er­enced, we will de­fend our rep­u­ta­tion, our em­ploy­ees and our clients.”

Morneau, who built the com­pany along­side his fa­ther into a large, suc­cess­ful firm, stepped down as ex­ec­u­tive chair­man shortly after the 2015 elec­tion and be­fore he was named fi­nance min­is­ter a cou­ple of weeks later. He has de­nied he was in con­flict of in­ter­est re­gard­ing Bill C-27.

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