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With new labour laws on the chopping block, what’s at stake for Ontario’s workers?




There was a time in Ontario when workers could be fired for being sick, could be terminated for not taking a last-minute shift and routinely lost thousands of dollars to wage theft.

The year was 2017.

It’s a set of circumstances that north Etobicoke resident Abdullahi Barre calls “unacceptable.”

“Our community elected Doug Ford,” he said. “But we did not support freezing the minimum wage and repealing Bill 148.”

Premier Ford calls the recent labour reforms a “job killer” and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce has called on the Progressive Conservative government to eliminate them — warning of a “$23-billion cost challenge” to businesses.

The bill was enacted by the previous Liberal government after a two-year labour law review concluded Ontario had “too many people in too many workplaces who do not receive their basic rights.”

Research conducted for the review found a province where 1.6 million workers did not have a single unpaid, job-protected sick day. Where workers lost $47 million to wage theft over six years, of which just $19 million was ever recovered by the government. Where workers had almost no protection against erratic scheduling. And where employers were prosecuted in less than 0.2 per cent of cases where they were found guilty of monetary violations.

“What Bill 148 did was start to make our basic rights a little bit stronger,” said Deena Ladd, of the Toronto-based Workers’ Action Centre.

At a mosque on Rexdale Blvd. backing onto an industrial zone buzzing with transport trucks, not all Ford supporters agree with plans to scrap it.

Imam Abdirahman Hassan said he voted for Ford, whose man-of-action reputation needs little burnishing in this neighbourhood.

“The appeal was when he said ‘I’m standing for the people,’ ” said Hassan. “With the difficult situation that the community is facing, I said to myself, maybe he is the right guy.”

But Hassan believes the ills he sees amongst his congregants have a root cause.

“People, they work at (temporary help) agencies. It’s not a stable job. For that reason a lot of people end up separating and divorcing,” he said. “Kids up end up on the street and find their own ways. A lot of the crisis in the Somali community, it is because of that problem, of not finding a proper job.”

Turfing the new legislation will “make it easier to invest, start, and grow a business in the province as well as build an economy that connects workers to jobs,” Chamber of Commerce president Rocco Rossi said in August.

As a prominent leader in Etobicoke’s Somali community, Hassan sees a different price tag.

“(People feel) there is no future in this country. That’s what I believe is the cost.”

In addition to increasing the minimum wage to $14 in 2018 and $15 in 2019, Bill 148 provided two paid, job-protected sick days and 10 emergency leave days for all workers. Previously, employers with fewer than 50 employees did not have to provide any unpaid emergency days.

“Before Bill 148 came into effect, it was a real challenge to do things like attend a medical appointment,” said Danyaal Raza, a family doctor at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

“The two paid sick days have actually helped but are frankly not enough for people who have significant medical concerns and are struggling to make ends meet.”

“When Doug Ford says this is bad for business, when you look at the research, that’s simply not the case,” he added.

The bill also mandated equal pay for temporary, casual, and part-time workers doing the same job as permanent employees.

Hassan said he’d rather the markups charged by temp agencies on workers’ hourly wages go to workers themselves.

“If the business groups are paying the agencies more than $15 (an hour), why don’t they give to the hardworking people who are supporting their families to make ends meet?” he said.

Santha Sivanantham, a mother of three, lives in Markham — another Conservative stronghold. She has worked at the same company for two years through a temp agency; while her permanent colleagues have received salary increases, she has never received a raise except through minimum wage increases.

Because she juggles two temp agency jobs, she says new scheduling protections in Bill 148 that give employees the right to refuse a last-minute shift without retaliation are crucial. She says the wage bump from $11.60 to $14 has also allowed her to pay her electricity bills and buy snacks for her kids.

“As temp agency workers, that’s the only time we see a raise,” she said. “If there’s no increase in the minimum wage, the temp agency is not going to increase.”

The legislation also promised to double the number of Ministry of Labour inspectors in an effort to inspect one in 10 Ontario workplaces. Between 2011 and 2014, the ministry found violations in around 75 per cent of all proactive inspections.

“I think the previous government did a good analyzing of the current situation,” said Hassan. “The best thing the Ford government can do is to continue.”

Ladd says even with Bill 148, there is still more work to be done.

As it stands, two million workers are still excluded from at least one basic protection — from overtime pay to minimum wage — because of gaps and exemptions in existing legislation.

For example, those working in road maintenance are not entitled to severance pay, rest periods or termination notice.

Home-care workers are not entitled to eating periods or overtime.

Residential building superintendents are not entitled to minimum wage.

“Only 24 per cent of workers are fully covered by the Employment Standards Act,” she said. “Those are not numbers that are made up. That is from the Ministry of Labour’s own records.”

“When a worker goes to work they should have a full expectation that they will get paid and they can return home to their family at the end of the day and not be injured,” she added.

Barre, who has four children at home, says he is worried about their future.

“It is very difficult to find a job. Especially when you are Black, when you are Muslim, and when you live in some neighbourhoods that are dangerous. They are discriminated against to get good jobs.”

Bill 148, according to Hassan, started to change that.

“Since the minimum wage changed to $14, a lot of people are relieved. They start contributing to the community and for those in need. And if it’s changed to $15 it will make it even better,” he said.

“You say, ‘I am going to stand for the people,’ ” he said of Ford. “And here we are. This is what we are expecting from you.”

Sara Mojtehedzadeh is a Toronto-based reporter covering work and wealth. Follow her on Twitter: @saramojtehedz


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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme




Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year




In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal




MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.


The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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