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Liberals table bill to set Canada’s first official poverty line




OTTAWA—New legislation tabled in Parliament Tuesday will set Canada’s first official poverty line, a key benchmark to track whether billions of dollars in federal spending actually reduces the number of low-income Canadians who struggle to make ends meet.

Bill C-87, if passed, would make the existing “market basket measure” — a Statistics Canada indicator of the cost of living that varies by region — the official poverty line. Using this measure, the bill would set poverty reduction targets the government “aspires” to meet: 20 per cent below 2015 levels by 2020, and 50 per cent below 2015 levels by 2030.

Federal Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos has outlined a plan to lift many more Canadians out of poverty. “Our vision for Canada is to become a world leader in the eradication of poverty,” Duclos said.
Federal Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos has outlined a plan to lift many more Canadians out of poverty. “Our vision for Canada is to become a world leader in the eradication of poverty,” Duclos said.  (Justin Tang / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

An advisory council made up of people appointed by cabinet would track progress toward these targets and report annually to the government, the bill says.

Families, Children and Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced the new bill while visiting an Ottawa community kitchen Tuesday morning. He said the legislation will help demonstrate how initiatives like the Liberals’ frequently-referenced monthly payouts to people with children under 18 help reduce poverty in Canada.

“We are going to be much better equipped in the short and the longer term to support the federal government’s investments in poverty reduction, and to hold accountable this government and future governments when it comes to demonstrating that (they are) fighting poverty,” Duclos said.

“Our vision for Canada is to become a world leader in the eradication of poverty.”

Brigitte Sansoucy, a New Democrat MP from Quebec, said the Liberals have basically reproduced the major aspects of her private member’s bill with the same name, which was voted down by the government in 2016. But she said the Liberal bill falls short because it doesn’t include new spending for poverty alleviation programs.

“They voted against my bill, saying they would do better. Well, today I’m not seeing what there is that’s better,” Sansoucy said in French. “It’s yet again a government that’s happy with beautiful words instead of action.”

The Liberal government unveiled its poverty reduction plan in August. It includes programs like the child-benefit payouts, increases to the federal government’s income support for seniors, and billions slated for spending on public transit, housing, child care and tax refunds for low-income workers.

While some anti-poverty advocates said the new poverty line is a welcome way to start tracking whether these programs contribute to poverty alleviation, they also questioned whether it will capture an accurate picture of Canadians who might need more government support. Michèle Biss, legal education and outreach co-ordinator for Canada Without Poverty, said access to child care, quality food and proper housing, for example, might not get captured in the market basket definition of poverty.

“It is a larger scope that you need to look at, and we don’t want that to get lost in the conversation,” she said.

Developed in the late 1990s, the market basket measure defines poverty based on the cost of goods and services that represent a “modest, basic standard of living,” according to Statistics Canada. The measure is adjusted every year to keep up with inflation, but the goods and services included in the measure were last updated in 2011. The most recent measure, from 2016, varies across 50 regions. In Toronto, the cost of the market “basket” for a family of four in 2016 was $41,287 — meaning families with disposable income below that level would be considered under the poverty line once the measure is adopted by the government.

Statistics Canada is currently in the midst of a “comprehensive review” of the measure and will announce the results in 2020. The new bill says Statistics Canada will conduct such reviews on a “regular basis” to make sure the measure shows “the up-to-date cost of a basket of goods and services representing a modest, basic standard of living in Canada.”

Anita Khanna, national co-ordinator of the anti-poverty organization Campaign 2000, has previously called on Ottawa to use a different measurement for its poverty line. She said the low income measure, for instance, is simpler and easier to compare internationally. Instead of surveying the cost of goods regionally, the low income measure pegs poverty at a certain level below the median income.

That would make periodic reviews of the poverty line easier, Khanna said, since it is based on income instead of spending. The government wouldn’t have to reassess the cost of goods and services every few years, she said. The current market basket measure also doesn’t have cost-of-living thresholds specific to First Nations or the Territories — something Khanna would like to see.

“There are certainly some question marks. I mean, I’d say, it’s pretty transparent what’s in the basket now needs to be updated,” Khanna said.

David Macdonald, a senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, said it’s been difficult to assess government spending on poverty reduction, because there’s never been an official benchmark to use to measure progress. While Tuesday’s bill includes targets for reduction, Macdonald said he’ll be watching for what the government does if it is found to be falling short on alleviating poverty in the coming years.

“That’s where there is political will — or not,” he said. “That will be the real test.”

Bill C-87 would make Statistics Canada’s market basket measure Canada’s first official poverty line. If passed, people with disposable income below a certain threshold would fall below the new poverty line. That threshold is based on the cost of a “basket” of essential goods and services, and varies by region across the country. Statistics Canada’s most recent basket measure is from 2016.

Here are the thresholds from that year for a family of four in different parts of the country:

Toronto: $41,287

Montreal: $35,428

Ottawa-Gatineau: $40,614

Vancouver: $40,045

Quebec cities, pop. 30,000-99,999: $32,970

Cape Breton, N.S.: $35,695

Alex Ballingall is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @aballinga


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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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