Thanks for the hint about asking for the $100 and examples. Lots to think about and decide here shortly.Excellent that you're already with Scotia, that should make it easier. Check their web site for promotions and ask if they would give you a $100 incentive to bring new money into iTrade.
You might want to still keep some amount of cash at credit unions or high interest savings accounts elsewhere. This is what I do as well. For example, 200K cash at a credit union and 800K into iTrade.
There are fees for GICs but they are baked into the price/yield so whatever interest rate you see is what you get, and there are no additional fees beyond that. The great thing about a discount brokerage like iTrade is that many GIC issuers are available, so you can spread the deposits over each and get 100K CDIC coverage with each one. An example, using 800K
100K at 2.13% in Montreal Trust Co of Canada, 1 year
100K at 2.18% in National Trust Co, 2 years
100K at 2.24% in Concentra Bank, 3 years
100K at 2.20% in Scotia Mortgage Corp, 4 years
100K at 2.36% in Royal Bank of Canada, 5 years
100K at 2.37% in Bank of Nova Scotia, 5 years
100K at 2.37% in ADS Canadian Bank, 5 years
100K at 2.40% in Canadian Western Bank, 5 years
Total 800K fully CDIC insured. Actual issuer names at iTrade and actual rates.
That's just a rough example of a GIC ladder but you'd want to build that more carefully and stagger the maturities more. Takes some time to build up a ladder. You'll see that rates are not necessarily higher than a credit union savings accounts, which is a reason why you'd probably want to still keep some cash at the credit union.
But the above is very safe as all those deposits are government backed through CDIC. This is stronger safety than credit union deposit insurance, which is provincial.
Separate from my GICs, I also keep a healthy amount of cash with Outlook Financial at 2.40%. Note that if interest rates decline further (which they might) the 5 year GICs are a benefit.
Both GICs and XSH can be held at iTrade. But note that for non-registered, XSH is less tax efficient than GICs. You may still decide it's worth it for the liquidity.