The markets today
(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.