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He volunteers his time to advise Toronto tenants. In this rental market, he’s a busy guy

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In 2010, Rob Maguire was “screwed” by a landlord. To be precise, he says he was conned out of $5,000 when he paid first and last month’s rent on a house in Oshawa, only to discover, shortly after moving in, something the landlord probably should have revealed before he asked Maguire to fork over five grand: the property was not his to rent out.

At this point Maguire had been already living in his new digs for 10 days. That’s when two cops arrived at the door “asking what I was doing trespassing.” He was forced to find a new place in the middle of the month with very little money to his name. “I didn’t know what my rights were. I didn’t know anything other than how to read a lease.” He learned fast. Today, Maguire, a 70-year-old father of four, not only knows his rights. He mentors thousands of people who don’t.

Rob Maguire, centre, spends many evenings at a Toronto bar counselling renters. “I drink beer, eat fantastic wings and talk to tenants,” he says.
Rob Maguire, centre, spends many evenings at a Toronto bar counselling renters. “I drink beer, eat fantastic wings and talk to tenants,” he says.  (Steve Russell / Toronto Star)

Our media is obsessed with intergenerational discord — specifically with stories about baby boomers who can’t stand millennials. But this isn’t one of them.

This is a story, rather, about an older guy who spends many evenings in front of his laptop at a north Toronto bar, counselling very grateful young people over the internet. “I drink beer, eat fantastic wings and talk to tenants,” says Maguire.

He does this on Facebook, through Ontario Tenant Rights: the hugely popular support group he founded a little over a year ago for renters in the province to voice their housing concerns and learn from one another.

Ontario Tenant Rights, and groups like it, such as Bunz Home Zone, are a vital resource for renters who know little about their rights and who may not have enough money to access legal representation. When it launched, Maguire expected a couple hundred people to sign up. Today membership sits at more than 20,000. Every morning when he gets up, he says, he’ll have about 15 to 20 private messages from tenants, many of them from Torontonians in their twenties who are struggling in the city’s notoriously expensive and competitive rental market.

Competition for living space breeds desperate renters, which in turn unfortunately breeds unscrupulous landlords. This includes landlords who refuse to fumigate roach infested apartments, landlords who refuse to give proper notice before entering tenants’ spaces, landlords who evict tenants in bad faith, and, perhaps most infuriating, landlords who don’t live on the property but who tell tenants they aren’t allowed to have any guests over to their homes — ever — even though such a prohibition is completely illegal. Maguire recently heard from a 20-year-old tenant who was told his own parents couldn’t visit his apartment without explicit permission from the landlord. With Maguire’s assistance the tenant took the case to the Landlord and Tenant Board where it was resolved in mediation and he received financial compensation.

When we think about young people facing discrimination in the rental market, we tend to imagine they are denied housing because of their age. But sometimes the opposite is true. Maguire insists there are plenty of standup landlords out there, some of whom seek advice in his group, but at the same time, he says, there are also landlords “who only rent to young people because they know they can walk all over them.” Not only are millennials less likely to know their rights than older renters, they’re less likely to have the capital to pick up and move.

“Oftentimes I hear from tenants in substandard living conditions,” says tenant rights lawyer Jonathan Robart. “But the market is so out of control they are unable to move to another place.” And even if they do try to improve their circumstances by writing a strongly worded letter to their landlord or taking their issue to the Landlord and Tenant Board, Robart says “that can really sour a relationship between landlord and tenant and most tenants either don’t have the time, the resources, or the knowledge,” to go through the legal process.

In Robart’s view, renters and society at large would be better served if tenant rights were a subject covered not only in lawyers’ offices and online forums, but in school. “If everybody coming out of high school had knowledge of what to look for in a lease, how to enforce their rights — I’d be interested to see how the power imbalance between landlord and tenant might shift.”

Maguire agrees. So many of the tenants who belong to his group are in “their late teens and early twenties.” It’s their first time away from home. Or for some, away from the country where they were born.

Indeed, The exploitation of renters in Toronto is particularly common among millennials new to Canada. Arun (an international engineering student from India who prefers not to disclose his last name for fear of how it might effect his professional life) came to Toronto in 2016. He soon found a place through friends — a house on a residential street in Brampton. It would be an understatement to say it was crowded. According to Arun, he was one of 30 tenants in the house, all of them students from outside the country. He paid $350 for a shared room in the basement, where, he says, “there was hardly space to sit down. There was no ventilation in the kitchen. In case of fire, we were trapped.” The landlord, who seemed like “a very nice lady,” refused to provide Arun and his housemates with a lease, telling them it was to their advantage not to sign one. Today, thanks in part to the Facebook group Bunz Home Zone, he is living in a different house, one he describes as safe and spacious.

But getting there was difficult, and telling. Before finding decent, safe accommodations, Arun encountered another sketchy apartment listing — this one demanding (illegally again) that tenants cook their food in the microwave only and abstain from having guests over. A newly informed man, he kept looking.

Unfortunately somebody won’t. Somebody will read that listing or one like it, take the place, and most likely try to heed the landlord’s wildly unfair, illegal demands, because they are desperate or because they don’t know any better. The silver lining is that when they decide they’ve had their fill of mandatory microwave dinners — Rob Maguire will be at a Toronto bar, on his laptop, ready to receive their complaint. It’s nice, he says, “to help people keep a roof over their head.” Or if that fails, to point them in the direction of a better one.

Emma Teitel is a columnist based in Toronto covering current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @emmaroseteitel

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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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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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