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Statistics Canada kept Trudeau cabinet, privacy commissioner in the dark about controversial bank data harvest plan – National

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Navdeep Bains, the Trudeau cabinet minister responsible for Statistics Canada, said he first learned of the federal agency’s controversial plan to harvest the financial transaction data of potentially millions of Canadians as a result of media reports and not, as the law requires, in a written notification from the country’s chief statistician.

Bains’ revelation, made Monday at a House of Commons committee, follows a similar revelation earlier this month made by Canada’s privacy commissioner testifying at a Senate committee that, he, too, did not learn of the scope of the StatCan project until reading about it.

Global News first reported on the project on Oct. 26, and at the time, quoted StatCan documents that said the privacy commissioner had been fully briefed on the scope and nature of the project and also said that StatCan was also following all applicable laws, one of which includes a requirement that Statistics Canada notify in writing the responsible minister — Bains, in this case — when a project such as the one StatCan hopes to proceed with was being proposed.

Bains testified Monday that no such notification was provided.


READ MORE:
Statistics Canada failed to disclose key info about project to harvest bank data

Nonetheless, Bains, whose title is Minister for Innovation, Science and Economic Development, told a Commons committee Monday he has full faith in chief statistician Anil Arora and the agency he heads, Statistics Canada.

“I think that Statistics Canada is a world-class statistical agency. It has a lot of respect internationally and within Canada as well … and I have a lot of confidence in the chief statistician,” Bains said.

Arora was appointed by the Trudeau government in 2017.

For more than a year, StatCan has been developing a project in which it would randomly select 500,000 Canadian households, pass information such as social insurance numbers, names, and addresses of members of those households to the country’s nine largest financial institutions, and then require those financial institutions to transfer to Statistics Canada the daily detailed financial transaction data of any of its customers on the list of those 500,000 randomly selected Canadian households.

Statistics Canada has explained that upon receiving that data from the country’s banks and credit card companies, it would “anonymize” the data, stripping personal identifiers after aggregating the financial data with demographic data and use this method to replace a questionnaire it now uses to gather information about the household spending habits of Canadians.


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EXCLUSIVE: Stats Canada requesting banking information of 500,000 Canadians without their knowledge

In correspondence obtained by Global News directed to the banks, Statistics Canada claims the legal authority to require banks and credit card companies to turn over this data with neither the consent nor the knowledge of the affected customers of the financial institutions.

“Canadians continue to express their absolute rejection of the Liberal plan to secretly force banks and other financial institutions to release their personal financial information of their clients without their consent,” Conservative MP Dan Albas said Monday in the House of Commons.

Bains, on Monday, said he now understands that affected Canadians would be informed if their data was collected.

Bains and other government officials describe the plan as a “pilot project” that has yet to collect any data in this way.

Arora has testified before both a Commons committee and a Senate committee that the project to harvest financial transaction data would not proceed until the Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien has signed off on the plan.

And while Therrien said he appreciates Arora’s invitation to review StatCan’s plans, he has opened an investigation into the federal agency’s activities after several Canadians complained.

“Your government has not done a very good job of managing Statistics Canada,” Conservative MP Michael Chong told Bains at Monday’s committee meeting. “This is data that is far more intrusive than anything we’ve seen before at a level that would make [Google subsidiary] Alphabet and Amazon blush.”

In the meantime, Conservative MPs had new questions Monday for both Bains and Statistics Canada about StatCan’s decades-old practice of selling custom slices of data it holds to the private sector and how that business might be affected by this new plan to harvest bank data.

“This data is going to be used by some of the largest companies in the world in order to market their services to Canadians and your government proposes to use the coercive power of the state … to get this data,” Chong said to Bains at Monday’s committee meeting. “I think it’s big-time overreach on part of your government.”


READ MORE:
Privacy Commissioner of Canada launches investigation into StatCan over controversial data project

In 2017, StatCan posted $113 million of what it calls “re-spendable” revenue and employed 400 full-time data collectors for this custom data business.

StatCan saw this custom data business shrink by 25 per cent between 2012 and 2015 after the previous Harper government made the mandatory long-form census optional. Many social scientists said that decision made the census data next to useless. Many of Statistics Canada business customers appear to have thought so as well as StatCan’s revenue earned by selling its data dropped from $114 million in 2012 to $86 million in 2015.

But when the Trudeau Liberals made the long-form census mandatory again in 2015, gave Statistics Canada new independence, and provided it with new powers to create projects like the planned bank transaction data collection project, it appears to have made StatCan more valuable in the eyes of business users. StatCan’s sales to the private sector quickly blossomed by 32 per cent from 2015 to 2017.

Albas said he believes StatCan’s revenue from this custom data service will “skyrocket” when business users learn it includes data StatCan has forced from Canada’s banks and credit card companies.

“This information is highly valued by large multinationals who want to sell more of their products,” Albas said.

At no time does Statistics Canada sell or provide, under any circumstance, any personal information it holds. Instead, it packages up data about groups of Canadians, most often sorted by their “postal code walk,” the first three letters of someone’s postal code, so that businesses or marketing organizations might know where, for example, families with young children or Punjabi speakers live.

Albas said the proposed project to collect bank transaction data would make StatCan’s data even more valuable to business users — at the expense, he said, of the privacy rights of Canadians.

  • With files from Andrew Russell

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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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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