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Market Update - Q4 2023 in Review

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The Roundup

Quarter in Review - Q4 2023

As I sit here writing this article at the beginning of the year the same question is blaring on the TV from behind me that was last quarter and, for that fact, all of 2023: will a soft landing be orchestrated, or will we have a recession? The other theme that will ring through 2024, and particularly gained momentum in the last half of the most recent quarter, is the speculation on the number of times that the Fed will cut interest rates, which helped lend a hand to a good November and December this quarter. We ended the last quarter with an ugly equity market in September (the worst quarter of the year and worst month of the year), and that downward momentum continued into the first month of the quarter (October), before the so-called “Santa Clause Rally” kicked in, which really was a result of the themes mentioned above (further speculation of a soft landing and optimism of several rate cuts coming in 2024).

This quarter finally delivered the much-wanted relief of no rate hikes and, in the first weeks of the quarter, all of the talk surrounded “higher for longer”. In the back half of the quarter, that sentiment shifted to how many potential rate cuts the economy could get next year.

The US 10-year yield increased from the end of the previous quarter into October 19 at 4.98%, until declining into the end of the quarter at 3.88%. The US 2-year yield increased from the end of the previous quarter into October 18 at 5.19%, until declining into the end of the quarter at 4.23%.

All in all, with the back-up in rates, it was a great quarter in the broad bond market (somewhat saving the year for bond investors) with lots of bond indices in the mid- to- high-single-digit return range, depending on risk and duration.

The S&P GSCI index (which tracks the performance of 24 commodity futures across five sectors) was down in the fourth quarter, driven by weakening energy prices – a reversal from the previous quarter’s strength, where we saw Brent Crude up over 22%, and West Texas Intermediate up almost 30%.

The agriculture component ended the quarter relatively flat, and it should be noted that gold and silver had a particularly strong quarter in the commodity complex.

  • Kevin Haakensen, Senior Portfolio Manager

Beyond Beta

The cornerstone of our portfolio construction has always been diversification. While we are firm believers that the stock market is the greatest machine for building wealth, an all-equity-based portfolio is not for the faint of heart. As of this writing, the S&P 500 has grown at an annualized rate of over 10% per year over the last decade. What these returns hide is a surprising degree of volatility to the downside.

Over the last 10 years, there have only been two years where the S&P 500 did not decline below the closing value of the previous year (2013 & 2017). Six of the last 10 years experienced declines greater than -5%, four years experienced declines greater than -10% and finally, two years experienced declines greater than -25%. These drawdowns are what shakes an investor’s confidence in the underlying investment. Historically, an investor is more likely to sell an investment that has dropped in value over an investment that has increased. Essentially, selling low.

The purpose of diversification is to combine different assets classes, that will respond to market events differently, or show a degree of non-correlation with each other. Historically, investors have always looked to the bond market to achieve this. This gave rise to the idea of the “60/40” portfolio split, investing 60% into the equity markets and 40% into the bond markets. The idea was that the non-correlation of the bond market to the stock market would reduce stock market drawdowns to a more bearable level at the expense of the higher returns enjoyed by equities in a bull market. In years where interest rates are high, lenders (bond issuers) are required to offer a higher yield to investors to “make it worth their while.”

Bonds & Interest Rates 101

The total value of the global bond market in 2023 was somewhere around $164 trillion dollars. This is almost twice the dollar value of the global stock market ($89.5 trillion). Bonds pertain to debt. When the government of Canada issues bonds, they are essentially borrowing money from investors. When buying one of their bonds, the government agrees to pay the lender (investor) a certain amount of interest, over a set time period to when the bond matures and the “debt” is repaid. This agreement between the borrower and the lender is formalized in a contract called a bond. The interest paid on the loan (bond) is determined by the perceived risk of the borrower not being able to pay it back and the current interest rate environment. Government bonds are backed by the full taxation power of that government, and are typically considered to be lower risk, therefore offer a lower interest rate. Third-party bond rating agencies like Standard & Poors or Moody’s will give an investment grade or credit rating to a bond to tell investors (lenders) how much risk a bond has of defaulting. Bonds with an “A” or “AAA” rating are considered to be high quality or limited risk to default where an “A-“ or “BBB” rated bond would be considered of higher risk of default.

For example, the current 10 year Government of Canada bond is paying a rate of 3.173% interest per year, for 10 years and has a credit rating of “AAA”.**

The financial crisis of 2008 saw interest rates drop to historically low levels. The US fed funds rate (the interest rate at which deposit institutions lend reserve balances to other deposit institutions overnight, on an uncollateralized basis) dropped to almost 0% and stayed this way until 2015, when economic conditions improved and the FOMC (The Federal Open Market Committee) began to, once again, raise interest rates. This tightening cycle would end in April of 2019, with the overnight lending rate peaking at 2.44%. From there, rates would gradually decline until the COVID pandemic rocked the global economy and the FOMC dropped the lending rate to almost 0% once again.

**Rates as of January 11, 2024. All rates are annualized and subject to change without notice.

In this environment, bonds were not an attractive asset class. Given the yields in the bond market (and the potential for losses in the short term), the risk/reward trade off in the bond markets looked far less appetizing to simply holding cash. For this reason, and the conditions that emerged after the financial crisis, we began to utilize another asset class, not well known outside of institutional and ultra-high-net worth investors. This asset class was the Alternative Investment market, which we have spoken of in previous publications.

The overnight lending rate set by the central banks is the foundation for how much interest borrowers are required to pay on loans. As mentioned above, a bond issuer is a borrower, and a bond investor is the lender. Looking at the data presented above, we have gone through a period of almost 16 years where the overnight lending rate was below 5%. What this meant for the bond market was significantly unattractive yields, with the 10 year Us treasury averaging 2.35% and the 10 yearr Government of Canada bond averaging 2.01%.

In 2022 inflation began to raise its head in the North American economy. Given how fast the inflation rate increased, the Bank of Canada and the FOMC (the Fed) began to rapidly increase the overnight lending rate in a bid to slow down consumption and the economy. Currently the overnight lending rate in Canada and the US is back to 5%.

The Path Ahead

After back-to-back losses in 2021 and 2022 (the S&P Canada Aggregate Bond Index was down -10.55% compared to -8.66% on the S&P/TSX Composite in 2022), bonds finally turned positive in 2023. As interest rates rise, bond prices fall because bond holders will typically sell their lower yielding bonds, purchased when rates are lower, and try to replace them with higher yield bonds, issued when rates are higher. In the 4th quarter of 2023, Wall Street and Bay Street began to believe that the inflation “dragon” was finally slain and going through its death throes. This in turn lead to the belief that, perhaps, interest rates had also peaked. The December meeting of the FOMC and Chairman Powell’s comment that the fed could cut rates three times in 2024, strengthened this argument, and the bond markets rallied. The S&P Canada Aggregate Bond Index was up 7.68% in the 4th quarter, closing out the year being up 6.27%.*

We believe that this performance from the bond markets will likely continue into 2024. While there are no “sure things” when it comes to investing, in the current interest rate environment and, assuming it doesn’t change, the risk/reward trade off for bonds is once again attractive. In the current climate, it would not be difficult to purchase a bond yielding 5%. If interest rates drop next year, as expected by many, bond prices will rise as investors scramble to buy up the bonds issued with higher yields. To this end we are reviewing our bond exposure across all our risk models with an eye to increasing exposure or adding it where we currently do not have exposure.

*Statistical information provided by S&P Dow Jones Indices as of December 29, 2023

  • Michael Brintnell, Senior Portfolio Manager

The Weathervane

Our clients are our top priority. Period. You are our “why” and, without you, the work we put in to maintaining industry-leading knowledge and investment strategy would become a hobby, at best. We want to take this opportunity to thank you for the continued trust you place in our team, the bulk of which you are likely acquainted with already. However, we have made some recent additions to our family, and want to introduce you to them!


Kevin joined the Clear Sky Private Wealth team as a partner and portfolio manager with iA Private Wealth in our Calgary office in 2022, and currently asissts with steering the estate and insurance planning division, as well as the portfolio composition. He is also an Insurance Advisor* with Clear Sky Private Wealth Inc.

Kevin has been in the industry since 1997 and has diverse experience in cutting edge tax and insurance structuring, venture stage company investment, personal and corporate planning, and Portfolio Management with a focus on alternative asset strategies to diversify portfolios and tame market volatility. His penchant for problem solving and helping people succeed were two of the motivators that steered him towards this profession 25 years ago and are still what drives him today. He has been recognized by Wealth Professional magazine four times as a Top 50 advisor in Canada from 2017 to 2020 as well being named the Portfolio Discretionary Manager of the Year in 2020.

Kevin was raised on a farm and ranch in southwestern Saskatchewan and, outside of the office, loves spending time exploring the great outdoors with his spouse and young daughter, many types of fitness, “chefing” a nice meal, and can be talked into the odd round of golf.

Kevin holds the following credentials:

• B.Comm: Bachelor of Commerce with Great Distinction honors in Finance and Marketing

• CFA: Chartered Financial Analyst

• CIM®: Chartered Investment Manager

• FMA: Financial Management Advisor

• FCSI: Fellow of the Canadian Securities Institute

Something you may not know: Kevin’s long-time assistant nicknamed him Thor, based on his Norse heritage and never-ending drive to conquer difficult tasks. He also likes Wine Gums.


Holley is an Associate Advisor in our Calgary office who joined the Clear Sky Private Wealth team in 2023. She assists with organizing the operational, administrative and compliance portions of our business, both here and in our sister office in Edmonton.

Holley has been in the industry since 2009 and has diverse experience in all aspects of operations, office management, team building, estates, investment and insurance administration, and advisor supervision. Her passion focuses on supporting individuals and the team as whole through consistency in brand recognition and facilitating the many projects that arise with a busy and successful crew.

Holley was born in Germany, raised firstly near Montreal and has come to us most recently from Saskatoon, where she and her family lived for 27 years. When she isn’t working, her time is happily spent caring for her family, including her husband and two young boys. She loves to cook, bake, read and sing whenever there is “spare time”. She is also currently working on her CFP designation.

Something you may not know: Holley can recite the alphabet backward.


Gloria is the most recent member of the team to join and has already been of immense assistance as our receptionist in the Calgary office. Her duties include booking all appointments, answering phones for both Calgary and Edmonton, as well as the many tasks that keep an operation running smoothly.

Gloria has over 20 years of administrative and reception experience in a number of industries. Gloria was born and raised in Saskatoon and graduated with Honors from Saskatoon business College. In 1990 she was transferred to Calgary for work and has been here ever since.

Gloria enjoys spending time with her family, playing golf, cooking great food and writing.

Something you may not know: In 2005, Gloria wrote a non-fiction book about deaths of four RCMP officers in rural Alberta.


If you’ve been with our team any length of time, it’s likely that you’ve had the opportunity to speak with one or more of our longer-standing team members. In case you haven’t, though, we’ve included them here along with their sphere of influence.

Steve Ambeault, CFA, CPA, CA, FCSI, CFP®, TEP, CFDS, CIM®, FMA, CLU®, Portfolio Manager with iA Private Wealth and Partner with Clear Sky Private Wealth, Edmonton office. He is also an Insurance Advisor* with Clear Sky Private Wealth Inc. Steve is primarily responsible for the financial planning division of our operations; however, he also performs investment and insurance* advisory meetings and facilitates the internal operational functions that keep us moving forward as a firm. Something you may not know: Steve used to play the trumpet!

Mike Brintnell, FCSI, CIM®, Senior Portfolio Manager with iA Private Wealth and Partner with Clear Sky Private Wealth, Edmonton office. Mike is heavily involved in portfolio composition and strategizing, as well as meeting with his clients in an advisory capacity. Something you may not know: Mike used to row at an international level when he was in high school!

Jay DeBoice, BComm, CIM®, Senior Portfolio Manager with iA Private Wealth and Partner with Clear Sky private Wealth, Calgary office. Something you may not know: Jay picked up an old hobby during the pandemic and began collecting sports cards again!

Lyle Harvey, BSc, Financial Planning Associate, Calgary office. Lyle assists with financial projections. Something you may not know: Lyle once attended a graduation ceremony alongside fellow guest, Ringo Starr!

Mitchel MacDonald, BCom, CIM®, Associate Investment Advisor, Edmonton office. Mitchel assists with investment reviews, and financial planning. Something you may not know: Mitchel used to race motocross and play the drums!

Erin Chester, Administrative Assistant, Edmonton office. Erin is our lead administrator and is responsible for all day-to-day administrative operations, primarily in Edmonton. Something you may not know: Erin can quote the whole movie The Breakfast Club, line for line!

Chelsea Ashton, CPA, CA, CFP, Financial Planning Associate, Edmonton office. Chelsea also assists with financial projections. Something you may not know: Chelsea is a certified group fitness instructor!

The remaining members of our team currently operate on a part-time basis, or in our tax planning area, to support our ever-expanding client base and firm initiatives, operating primarily in their chosen areas of skill. However, ALL of our team is at your disposal any time you need something. We work very closely with each other and operate with an “all for one” mentality. That means when you call on one of us for a task, you aren’t just getting the benefit of your relationship manager; you are drawing from the knowledge and skill base of an entire team dedicated to supporting your financial goals until they are realized, and beyond! If the individual you are used to dealing with is away, you can feel confident in the ability of the team to fulfill any request in the same efficient and consistent manner you’ve come to appreciate from us.

  • Holley Frost, Associate Investment Advisor

Above the Bottom Line

The New Trust Reporting Rules

The Bottom Line: Do you hold more than $50,000 in trust for children or grandchildren? Are you listed on the title for the home of a parent or child? If so, you may be required to file a T3 Trust Income Tax and Information Return.

In the wake of the government's initiative to promote transparency and tax compliance, the CRA's recent changes present pivotal implications for both trustees and beneficiaries.

Under the new rules, which apply to trusts with taxation years of December 31, 2023 or later, a wider range of trusts will now be required to file a T3 "Trust Income Tax and Information Return." This marks a departure from previous regulations where certain trusts without taxable income or distributions were exempt from filing requirements. The new legislation mandates that trusts report detailed information about all trustees, beneficiaries, settlors, and any other individuals with the power to influence trustee decisions on the distribution of trust income or capital.

Trustees must now prepare to collect and report this information, with the first filing deadline set for March 30, 2024, for trusts with a December 31, 2023 taxation year-end. As a result, trustees will need to familiarize themselves with these changes and take proactive steps to ensure compliance.

The new legislation also defines "bare trust" arrangements broadly, potentially encompassing a variety of trust structures, including in-trust investments over $50,000, and individual Canadians that had to report under the new Underused Housing Tax Act. The CRA is expected to provide further guidance on the application of these rules to bare trusts.

Penalties for late filing and non-compliance have been set, with additional penalties for failures deemed to result from gross negligence.

In summary, the landscape of trust administration in Canada is undergoing a significant transformation with the CRA's enforcement of new reporting rules. These changes not only redefine the compliance framework for existing trusts but also extend the reporting net to include previously exempt entities, thereby tightening the reins on tax oversight. As the deadline for the first report looms, it is imperative for those involved in trust administration to stay informed about the evolving regulatory requirements and to seek guidance where necessary.

  • Steve Ambeault, Portfolio Manager

Under Cover

I think one of the most famous quotes around the insurance industry is that “insurance is something that is sold, not bought”. From experience I would say that this is a correct statement about 75% of the time, as often it needs to be pointed out how much, what type, and for what purpose, as it simply is not quite as obvious as perhaps how much you would insure your house for in the event of, say, fire. There are lots of different types of insurance, not only to help cover risk, but also to be used creatively for tax purposes. Below I have provided just a few of the uses of life insurance for planning purposes (at a different date we will discuss other forms of insurance, such as Critical Illness).

1. Providing for dependants and loved ones: this can help support many aspects, but often encompasses the loss of income. For example, if you as the primary bread winner in the family are working full time to support the household, and were to unexpectedly pass away, how would it affect the remainder of the household unit (i.e. potentially a spouse and children)? Different forms of insurance may be an efficient and inexpensive way to help offset this risk and provide a tax-free payment that can then be utilized to provide a payment stream to offset the loss of household income.

2. Liquidity and estate tax coverage: I have worked with several farming families and other business entrepreneurs over the years; insurance can become a very important part of planning because of the unique nature of the assets involved. It can also apply to something that seems as simple as the family cabin, or a real estate portfolio. On death CRA has rules that deem certain assets to be sold at Fair Market Value (FMV), requiring taxes to be paid, even though there may have been no such actual disposition. This can be a major problem with assets that are desired to be kept in the family where there is not enough cash liquidity to pay for those taxes. Life insurance proceeds can be the life blood needed to help keep the family farm or business intact, or the family cabin that is meant to be passed to the next generation. In these events CRA wants to be paid and, if they are not paid on time, penalties and interest can accumulate very quickly, forcing the sale of some of these assets where they would otherwise not be liquidated.

3. Debt retirement: often when planning in the family unit, or within a business, it can be very beneficial (and sometimes required) for the surviving spouse/children, and business partners with existing loans (mortgages, business loans), that those loans are “retired” (or paid off) with life insurance. Also, the bank often offers mortgage insurance; my advice there would be to compare it to independently-sourced life insurance options as, more often than not, the independently-sourced insurance is much more favourably structured and much less expensive.

4. More predictable gifting: often for people finding themselves with more wealth than what they are certain they will spend in their lifetime, a properly-structured insurance contract may provide a more predictable way of passing that wealth on to the next generation. The tax benefits of insurance (and the ability to not have it form a part of taxable estate) can be a very powerful tool, yet remains flexible while the insured and owners are alive.

5. Buy-sell agreement funding: businesses that have partners can often face a hardship if one of those partners dies. Not only must you deal with the fact that you may need to scramble to replace the particular partner’s contribution to the business, but you could also be faced with buying out the partner’s shares on death. This could mean draining cash for other purposes, or needing to assume debt to facilitate the purchase, which could be at a financially inopportune time. Insurance can be structured to help provide the resources (namely, cash) to help solve this problem, and can often be facilitated at very reasonable rates.

6. Key person protection: building on the point above, if a business has a key employee whose death would negatively impact the business, an insurance contract should be considered. This would provide some liquidity for the business during the period of transition. Often other types of insurance (to be discussed further at a later date) such as Critical Illness (CI) should be considered in the event that the Key Person has other medical issues which would force them to be away from the business for a period of time.

7. Inheritance equalization: from time-to-time, people will have very specific assets (art, jewelry, a coin collection, etc.) that they would like to leave to a certain heir, but would also like to leave the same equivalent amount in cash to other heirs. Another example would be where not all heirs are passed along business assets (such as farm land), or shares in a business, and yet there is a desire to equalize using cash. Insurance may be one of the best solutions to help funding these imbalances over time.12

8. Charitable gifting: there are several different methods for providing a lump sum of cash to a charity with life insurance.

9. Specific funding goals: some individuals want to ensure that certain goals are met on their death. A few common ones would be funding a child’s or grandchild’s education, or funding funeral arrangements (though there are many more examples).

By no means should this list be treated as exhaustive; however, it may at least perhaps provide some food for thought. If there are any items above which are thought provoking, and you would like to explore further, please reach out to our team – we’re here to help!

  • Kevin Haakensen, Insurance Advisor with Clear Sky Private Wealth Inc*


TFSA Contributions

It’s still early in the year, but a friendly reminder that your TFSA room for 2024 has increased to $7,000, bringing your total lifetime contribution potential to $95,000. For those of you who left us with instructions in 2023 to do your 2024 contributions, they will be done in the first part of 2024. Any income earned inside the TFSA is completely tax-free. If you are unable to make your contribution in any given year, you can make it up in a future year, but you gain the most advantage by making your TFSA contributions as soon as possible, to enjoy the tax-free growth of your investment. If you plan to make withdrawals from your TFSA in 2024, you will need to wait until 2025 to deposit those funds back into your TFSA to avoid any penalties for re-depositing the funds too soon.

*Please Note: Available room is carried forward should you not contribute the maximum. You should always verify with CRA how much you have contributed to your TFSA before making additional contributions. This will avoid penalties from CRA for over contribution. You can do this by logging into your my CRA account online.

2023 RRSP Contributions

If you have not yet made your 2023 RRSP contribution, you still have the first 60 days of 2024 to do so (until Thursday, February 29, 2024). Please keep in mind, if you are sending this contribution via online banking, it can take a few days to be received by our institution and be posted to your account. As such, you will want to do so by Friday, February 23, 2024. After this date, we may request a screenshot or email confirmation from you to provide to our head office for backdating. In addition, for those who are turning 71 in 2024, your RRSPs must be dealt with by December 31, 2024, in one of three ways: by fully withdrawing the funds; by transferring them to an annuity; or by converting the RRSP into a Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF). If you have employment income this year and you wish to make any final RRSP contributions, they will need to be completed before the end of the year, or before you convert to a RRIF.

Cheque Deposits to Your Account - Reminder

An important reminder that all cheques for deposit should be made payable to iA Private Wealth. Cheques payable to any other name will be rejected.

Online Deposits to Your Account - Reminder

An important reminder that is you choose to send funds to your accounts here through your online banking, please contact an assistant or advisor via email to let them know you have made a deposit and for how much, so our team can ensure it is deposited correctly. Here are the steps to make online deposits.

1. Log into your online banking account;

2. Go to Add Payee or Add Bill;

3. Search for iA Private Wealth;

4. Add your account number with no dashes;

5. Enter the dollar amount you wish to transfer; and

6. Let your advisor know so we can watch for it.

Creating your Online Access through Client Portal - Reminder

We would like to remind everyone of our client portal to view your accounts at any time, we strongly recommend you register if you have not already. To create your profile, please visit Once there, please register to have your Client Portal account created. You’ll be creating your own Access Code (UserID) and password. It is recommended to use your email as your Access Code

When registering for Client Portal, it will ask you for your Client ID. This can be obtained from your iA Private Wealth monthly statements (your account number that is held at iA Private Wealth, minus the last character), or you can give us a call. The Client ID is 6 digits made up of numbers and letters.

Please feel free to give us a call if you have any questions while registering! Kathy Bishop from our office will be happy to help in any way we can.

Client Portal – Now a Mobile App

As a reminder iA has created a mobile app for your client portal. Find it now in the app store on your phones, iPads or tablets. The login information is the same as you use on the website.

  • Erin Chester, Administrative Assistant


We have dedicated a portion of our newsletter to spotlight something with a local interest. What I love about this is it usually means I get to talk about a restaurant that we recently went to, or an experience we had that would be worthy of sharing. Being based in Calgary there may be a bias but, trust me, I will make the effort to make my way to Edmonton to include something from there soon! For this quarter I am going to write about the latest great dining experience my wife and I had at a new-ish restaurant in Calgary called Luca.

Luca Restaurant focuses on premium Italian dishes, with pasta made from scratch and ingredients imported from Italy. We were told by people that we must try the lobster risotto – we did, and it did not disappoint! Very rich and enough for 2-4 people. They had an extensive wine menu as well, which we perused and selected something from. For appetizers we had a shrimp dish and a scallop ceviche, both of which were fantastic!

As good as the food and wine were, what I came away with from dinning at Luca was the service – it was exceptional. We sat at the bar right in front of the kitchen staff as they prepared our food (a part I always enjoy). However, this time as we sat there, the head chef set some samples out for us (honestly, I think he took pity as he could see the drool coming from the corner of my mouth). The servers had extensive knowledge of everything on the menu, and were very helpful with allergies – most were also sommeliers, which helped going through the daunting wine list. You didn’t feel rushed; you felt as though they were there to make your experience better.

If there is one thing I will apply to my life from our visit at Luca is how we at Clear Sky can serve our clients and make their experience with us the best it can be. I recommend you check it out!

  • Jay DeBoice, Senior Portfolio Manager

This information has been prepared by Kevin Haakensen, Mike Brintnell, Jay DeBoice & Steve Ambeault who are Portfolio Managers for iA Private Wealth Inc. and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of iA Private Wealth. The information contained in this newsletter comes from sources we believe reliable, but we cannot guarantee its accuracy or reliability. The opinions expressed are based on an analysis and interpretation dating from the date of publication and are subject to change without notice. Furthermore, they do not constitute an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any of the securities mentioned. The information contained herein may not apply to all types of investors. The Portfolio Manager(s) can open accounts only in the provinces in which they are registered.
iA Private Wealth Inc. is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada. iA Private Wealth is a trademark and business name under which iA Private Wealth Inc. operates.
*Insurance products and services are offered through Clear Sky Private Wealth Inc., an independent and separate company from iA Private Wealth
Inc. Only products and services offered through iA Private Wealth Inc. are covered by the Canadian Investor Protection Fund.