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Finance Minister says corporate tax breaks needed to stop Canada losing business dollars to U.S.

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OTTAWA—Finance Minister Bill Morneau is defending his government’s big tax breaks to corporate Canada, saying that Ottawa had to act or risk losing business investment to the U.S.

Confronting criticism that Wednesday’s economic update was too focussed on business priorities, Morneau said that ensuring Canada remains competitive in the face of big corporate tax cuts south of the border is critical to the country’s economy and job creation.

But he said that the Liberal government is mindful that it has more work to do to address the needs of low-income and middle-class Canadians.

“We know there is always more to do in that regard, but we can’t forget that, for a significant number of people, we’ve got to find the right jobs for the future,” Morneau told the Star.

The federal Liberals used this week’s economic update to deliver tax changes to allow companies that invest in manufacturing and clean energy to write off their spending on new equipment right away. Other businesses will be able to write off more quickly a greater portion, but not the full amount, of their capital spending.

Morneau says that Ottawa had to act in some way to ease the tax burden on Canadian corporations because of Washington’s sharp cuts to corporate taxes, which had eliminated Canada’s tax advantage.

The cost of not acting would be losing businesses that were already here and making Canada less attractive to foreign investors, he said, during an interview in his office in the Finance Department building.

“We recognized that as our reality, so we wanted to make sure that that next investment can be made in Canada,” Morneau said.

“Not only are we assuring that investment, but we are assuring the newest technology will be here in Canada, which means the more exciting jobs,” he said.

Morneau, who is scheduled to talk to a Toronto audience Friday about the update, said that based on “very positive feedback” from corporate leaders, he’s confident that businesses will take advantage of the measures to make job-creating investments.

“We’re making a decision for the long-term health of our economy and the exciting jobs of tomorrow. We need to do that at the same time as we think about how we assure that people who are really challenged are helped out along the way,” he said.

Morneau, who has served as Justin Trudeau’s only finance minister, has one budget left before the next election in October, 2019.

Looking ahead, Morneau said that income equality, skills training to meet the changing economy and helping the less fortunate will be priorities for the final months in office.

Morneau said the measures taken so far by the government — notably the child benefit, the Canada Workers Benefit and increases to the guaranteed income supplement — will lift 652,000 people out of poverty.

“That’s an enormous impact,” he said.

“We don’t think our job is done at all. We think we have to be continually focusing on how we ensure that middle class Canadians have optimism about the future and we need to continually be focusing on how people who are the most challenged in our society move into a better situation,” he said.

NDP MP Peter Julian (New Westminster-Burnaby) said the priorities laid out in the economic update were “completely inappropriate” and would do little to help the pocketbooks of everyday Canadians, many of whom are struggling with record levels of household debt.

“The announcements … of massive corporate write-offs is unbelievable. It just shows how out of touch this government is, given the size and scope of what Canadians are struggling through,” said Julian, the party’s finance critic.

He said the government should have moved on other initiatives, such as accelerating investments in affordable housing. “They are not doing the things that they need to do to support Canadians,” Julian said in an interview.

On Parliament Hill Thursday, Conservative MPs Pierre Poilievre and Michelle Rempel criticized Liberal plans, laid out in the economic update, to help Canadian media outlets to the tune of $595 million over five years.

The measures, which include a tax break for subscribers of digital news and tax credits to news organizations for a portion of their labour costs, are meant to assist media outlets left struggling by the downturn in ad revenues. The government said it will let an independent panel drawn from the journalism industry define eligibility for some of the measures.

But Poilievre and Rempel condemned the move, saying the government shouldn’t be underwriting media organizations. “A lot of the mainstream media outlets are not profitable. They’re not thriving and is it the role of taxpayers to bail them out?” Rempel said.

Morneau said that some details of the aid have to be confirmed in the budget, but he wanted to get the ball rolling on establishing the independent panel.

“We see it as critically important that we have confidence in the independence,” he said.

In his update, Morneau laid out a rosy economic picture with unemployment at a 40-year low, rising wages and corporate profits and continued growth. That has helped boost government revenues, but the new spending means that a return to balanced books remains out of reach for the foreseeable future.

In fact, Ottawa is now projecting higher deficit spending — about $5 billion more over the next five years — than it did in its February budget.

But Morneau says that even with the measures in the update, the debt-to-GDP ratio continues to decline and that Canada’s debt position is more favourable than other G7 countries.

The one storm cloud is the sharp drop in oil prices which hurts not just Alberta, but Ottawa’s bottom line, too. Morneau concedes there is no easy fix to depressed oil prices in Alberta, as there are roadblocks to getting oil to markets other than the U.S.

The federal government took the unusual step earlier this year of buying the Trans-Mountain pipeline in hopes of speeding construction of a second pipeline along the route, a project held up as further consultations take place.

“This is an enormous challenge. It’s a long-term challenge,” Morneau said. “We don’t have any magic solutions.

“We think the biggest single thing we can do is stay focused on what we’re trying to achieve,” he said.

Bruce Campion-Smith is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @yowflier

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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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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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