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What happened to Trudeau’s plan to fight income inequality?

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It’s turning into a season of setbacks in the great Canadian fight against income inequality.

Just kidding. There actually is no great Canadian fight against income inequality, as recent developments are illustrating.

Premier Doug Ford didn’t come to office with any promises to narrow the gap between rich and poor in Ontario, and that’s probably just as well, since most of the previous policy efforts on that score are being systematically dismantled.

On Tuesday, while MPPs at Queen’s Park were cheering legislation to halt an increase in the minimum wage, a report from the country’s parliamentary budget officer showed that these very increases were making a real impact in reducing income inequality in Canada.

“Increases to the minimum wages have contributed significantly to reducing wage inequality and it’s helped particularly those at the low end of the income spectrum,” budget officer Yves Giroux told the Star. Oh well; too late to fix that now in Ontario.

The save-the-program requests, incidentally, are coming from the left and the right — from 100 CEOs, who recently wrote a letter in favour of the project, to NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, who urged this week that Ottawa provide the funds to keep the project going.

A spokesperson for the federal minister of families, children and social development has thrown cold water on that idea, saying that basic-income projects were a provincial matter.

Ultimately the design of provincial social programs, such as a basic income, is up to provincial governments,” Valérie Glazer told the Star.

It certainly does seem like Justin Trudeau’s government has lost its enthusiasm for narrowing the income gap in Canada during its past three years in power.

This was the issue, we’ll remember, that lured Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland into public life five years ago. Trudeau read Freeland’s book, Plutocrats, and persuaded her that she could do more to end income unfairness inside politics than outside of it.

At the beginning of this year, Freeland was still writing in The Economist about how a “progressive trade” agenda would go a long way to narrowing the income gap and fighting the surge of “nativism” around the globe.

“In most places where nativism has appeared as a political force, income inequality was there first,” Freeland wrote in a special issue of The Economist.

As we know, Freeland’s attention subsequently strayed after she wrote that article, forced to slay other giants than income inequality. It would be interesting to see the minister do a follow-up article soon, laying out how the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement lines up with her aspirations at the outset of 2018 to fight nativism and the wealth gap.

The very phrase “income inequality” has fallen out of fashion in the past few years too — certainly since the Liberals came to power, oddly enough. A search on the openparliament.ca website shows that “income inequality” was mentioned at least 100 times a year in parliamentary discussions from 2012 to 2014 but then, just 30 times last year and only about a dozen times so far in 2018.

In many ways, the waning interest for this issue — at least on the federal Liberal front — is politically understandable, if disappointing. Trying to address populism with social policy, whether it was basic income, minimum wage or pharmacare, didn’t save Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals in Ontario from massive defeat in June. Can anyone blame Trudeau’s Liberals for being wary of a similar fate?

Speaking of pharmacare, when’s the last time we heard the Trudeau Liberals talking up that idea? Despite its potential to level the playing field on drug costs — which can be ruinous to those less advantaged in Canada — it’s looking like Ottawa is curbing its enthusiasm on pharmacare too.

Eric Hoskins, the former Ontario health minister tasked earlier this year with looking into the introduction of a national pharmacare program, recently told the Star’s Alex Ballingall that we may end up with more of a “voluntary” system — certainly far less ambitious than many might have envisioned.

“It would probably need to be more of an opt-in approach,” Hoskins told the Star a month ago.

All the parties are busily getting their platforms in shape for next year’s election and the federal Liberals are currently lining up their priorities for the fall economic statement and the 2019, pre-election budget. Don’t expect to see much about the great Canadian fight against income inequality — that fight, as we’re seeing these days, doesn’t really exist right now.

Susan Delacourt is the Star’s Ottawa bureau chief and a columnist covering national politics. Reach her via email: sdelacourt@thestar.ca or follow her on Twitter: @susandelacourt

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Anglais

Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme

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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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Anglais

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

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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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Anglais

MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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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.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

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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