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2021 Francophone Games could cost taxpayers seven times more than expected

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The Francophone Games could cost taxpayers seven times more than expected.

The Moncton-Dieppe bid was selected to host the 2021 Games — considered the biggest sporting and cultural event in the French-speaking world — based on a $17-million budget submitted back in 2015.

But Radio-Canada has learned the request for funding by the Games’ organizing committee, first submitted to government back in April, is for $130 million, raising questions about whether hosting the games in New Brunswick is still a viable option.

The municipalities of Moncton and Dieppe were supposed to contribute $750,000 each, with the rest of the money split evenly between the federal and provincial governments.

But various levels of government are now saying they might not be able to afford the difference.

New Brunswick’s Progressive Conservative government said it was shocked to find out the price tag when it took office.

« To our surprise, there were no funds approved in the budget for the Games, » said Louis Léger, Premier Blaine Higgs’s chief of staff.

« We were incredibly surprised.

Louis Léger, chief of staff to Premier Blaine Higgs, said the province is concerned about the inflated price tag. (CBC)

Léger said he is not ready to say the Games are in jeopardy, but he is unsure where the funds will come from.

« We have to recognize New Brunswick is a small province, » he said, leaving the ball in the court of the federal government.

But Ottawa said it will not contribute more than 50 per cent of the cost of running the Games.

« We’re obviously worried by the potential cost, » said Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc.

« It’s important now for New Brunswick to assume its responsibility, and we’ll be an important partner in the Games. »

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said he can’t imagine Moncton-Dieppe won’t host the 2021 Francophonie Games. (CBC)

LeBlanc said the federal government could pay 50 per cent of the new costs but, according to federal policy on funding for international sporting events, it would not go beyond more than half the overall price tag.

The minister said he is looking forward to continuing discussions with the province.

« I can’t imagine the provincial government would give up on the Games, » he said.

« I can’t imagine the Francophonie Games wouldn’t take place in New Brunswick in 2021. »

No false pretences

The $17-million bid was based on a suggested financial framework in the International Organization of the Francophone Games guide, explained Eric Larocque, executive director of the 2021 Games organizing committee.

The $130-million price tag, he explained, is the full business plan, which the committee wasn’t required to submit as part of its bid.

In contrast, the City of Sherbrooke, Que., who also made a bid to host the games and lost, had a $50-million business plan as part of its application.

Larocque rejected the idea the committee won its bid under false pretences but agreed it would have been « the right thing to do » to submit the business plan from the get-go.

Eric Larocque, executive director of the 2021 Games organizing committee, said the committee wasn’t acting under false pretences when it submitted its $17-million bid. (CBC)

« Of course, yes, » said Larocque. « But it was not asked from us, so we didn’t.

« There were some volunteers, and there were some public servants. I’m not here to pinpoint or to blame somebody. It was a group decision, and that’s it. »

Larocque said he could not provide details about what items were part of the business plan, short of confirming a request for infrastructure was made.

When Moncton won the bid, the city said « the beauty » of its bid was that it already had all the infrastructure required — referring to the stadium at the University of Moncton and the new Avenir Centre — and there wouldn’t be any costs associated with that.

Officials from the International Committee of Games of La Francophonie met with Moncton-Dieppe officials and organizations to talk about bid for 2021 games in the 2015 file photo. (Jennifer Choi/CBC)

Larocque said governments could decide to provide only a portion of the money requested by the organizing committee.

« I don’t think we’re going to lose the Games. They need to talk and to find a solution, » he said.

« We’re going to do the best with the money we’re going to get. »

He said the funds would have to be approved by January for the committee to be on schedule.

The City of Moncton said it approved a financial contribution of $750,000 toward the Games, as part of its 2017 budget deliberations, and that no further request for funding has been made to the city by the local organizing committee.

The province meanwhile remains concerned.

« We inherited this situation, » said Léger. This worries us to the highest degree. To see that such an important event had not been as well planned as it should have…

« It’s a 664 per cent increase. It’s not just forgetting a small element of the project. »

Since they were created in 1989, the Games have been held in Morocco, France, Lebanon, Ivory Coast, Madagascar and Niger.

Canada last hosted the event in 2001 when it was held in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que..

The Games are expected to draw 4,000 visitors to the Moncton area in 2021.

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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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