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Cannabis legalization named top Canadian business news story of 2018 – National

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TORONTO — Canada’s trailblazing move to legalize cannabis for recreational use, which sparked an entirely new industry and had wide-ranging implications for nearly every facet of society, has been voted The Canadian Press Business News Story of the Year.

The term “disruption” in business has become so overused that it has become an empty cliche, but it is warranted in the case of pot legalization, said Andrew Meeson, deputy business editor at the Toronto Star.


READ MORE:
How one simple change let a province sell residents live pot plants

“It’s hard to think of an area in Canada that hasn’t been shaken up: not just commerce (from criminal act to booming startup to takeover target in the blink of an eye), but also policing, health care, justice, politics. Even culture (just ask Tommy Chong),” he said.

“If that doesn’t make it the business story of the year, I don’t know what would.”

In an annual poll of the country’s newsrooms conducted by The Canadian Press, business editors and reporters across the country chose cannabis legalization in a landslide, with 60 per cent of the votes cast.

READ MORE: Smelly, fussy, humid: Why you may not want to grow your own legal pot

The terse negotiations between Canada, U.S. and Mexico towards a new North American Free Trade Agreement was a distant second with 30 per cent of votes.

Canada’s pipeline conundrum, with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion now in limbo after a court overturned its regulatory approval in August and a U.S. court throwing out the Keystone XL pipeline’s presidential permit in November, came in third out of eight possible candidates with 10 per cent of the vote.

WATCH: UBC Okanagan researchers looking at mass production of cannabis beverages






“Pipelines would have won, hands down if it weren’t for the creation of an entirely new industry in Canada,”said David Blair, a business columnist with CBC Radio. “Rarely, if ever, do journalists get to cover the opening of a new market, especially one that is as controversial as cannabis.”


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The world was watching when the country made history with the first legal sale of non-medicinal pot just after midnight on Oct. 17 in Newfoundland and Labrador, due to its time zone being 30 minutes ahead of the rest of Canada.

It marked the beginning of what the New York Times dubbed Canada’s “national experiment,” and the culmination of months, if not years, of preparation by legislators and law enforcement officials at all levels and in each province, territory, and municipality.

WATCH: Life as a cannabis advisor for former Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter






While Oct. 17 represented an extension from the initial target set for July, and licensed producers ramped up production in the lead-up, long lines of customers were met with widespread product shortages online and in the relatively few bricks-and-mortar stores that were ready on day one.

Still, many Canadians were simply elated to be able to buy government-sanctioned pot after nearly 100 years of prohibition.


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“My new dealer is the prime minister!” said Canadian fiddler and pop star Ashley MacIsaac, who in 2001 had been arrested for possession in Saskatchewan.

But cannabis mania had been bubbling for months before legalization, with retail investors rushing to invest in the latest pot company to list its stock. Cannabis company valuations in the lead up to Oct. 17 soared and some of the banks’ online direct investment platforms were bombarded with unprecedented trading volumes.

At one point producer Tilray Inc.’s stock on the Nasdaq exchange in September hit a peak of US$300, giving the Nanaimo, B.C.-company a market value higher than established Canadian conglomerates such as Loblaw Companies Ltd. and Rogers Communications Inc.


READ MORE:
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Pot will be cited for years to come as many Canadians’ first experiences with investing, said Pete Evans, senior business writer for CBC News.

“Cannabis mania deserves some credit — and maybe blame — for ushering an entire new generation of primarily young people into making their first stock market investments ever,” he said.

A flurry of merger and acquisition activity in the sector, even before legalization, fuelled investor interest as well.


READ MORE:
Aurora Cannabis invests $10M in marijuana retailer High Tide

Aurora Cannabis Inc. was on an acquisition spree this year, buying rival CanniMed Therapeutics for $1.1 billion after a terse takeover battle and later MedReleaf for $3.2 billion.

Alcohol giant Constellation Brands in August announced it was upping its investment in pot producer Canopy Growth Corp. — in the largest strategic investment in the pot space to date _ to increase its ownership stake to 38 per cent. The Corona beer-producer also received warrants that, if exercised, would up its stake to more than 50 per cent.

And earlier this month, Big Tobacco came calling, as the number of countries that legalized cannabis for medical use continues to grow.


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Maker of Marlboro cigarettes invests $2.4B in Canadian cannabis producer Cronos

Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc. said it planned to invest $2.4 billion in pot producer Cronos Group Inc. for 45-per-cent ownership, with an option to increase that stake in the future.

WATCH: Aurora Cannabis buys MedReleaf for $3.2 billion






The Altria-Cronos deal gave the overall sector a slight lift, but pot stocks have largely come off their highs after legalization as reality set in and concerns mounted about lofty valuations.

Canadian marijuana companies have found themselves in the crosshairs of short-sellers, as well.

READ MORE: Could pot stocks make you rich?

Aphria Inc. earlier this month saw its stock value more than cut in half over three days after two short-sellers targeted the Leamington, Ont.-based cannabis producer with a raft of allegations, including that its recent international acquisitions were “largely worthless.” Aphria has called the allegations “inaccurate and misleading” and is confident in the deal in question, but has appointed an independent committee to review their claims.

Meanwhile, recreational pot supply shortages continue to linger. Several cannabis producers in part blamed supply chain issues for contributing to the shortage and have said they are aiming to increase their production, but it will likely take more time fresh product to hit the market.

Quebec’s cannabis corporation stores continue to be closed from Monday to Wednesday as a result. And in Ontario, where the only legal way for residents to buy adult-use pot is through the government-run online portal, the provincial government said it will hand out a limited number of retail licenses due to the shortages.

WATCH: Becoming a cannabis sommelier






The Ontario government initially said it would not cap the number of licenses, but now says it will only be able to issue 25 licenses by April via a lottery system. This deals a blow to a slew of companies who have been putting down deposits to secure prime real estate locations in the country’s most populous province in anticipation of obtaining a license.

“Seemingly overnight, activity that always existed on the margins of society has come into the centre,” said Evans.

“It’s been fascinating to watch the growing pains that have ensued… It will be interesting to see in the coming months and years how and if the reality lives up to expectations for the industry.”

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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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