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Ontario government cuts $25M in funding for specialized school programs

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The Ontario government is slashing $25 million in funding for specialized programs in elementary and secondary schools across the province. 

The cut will mean the end of a number of initiatives for at-risk youth, including an after-school program run by teens in low-income areas that was established in the wake of the so-called « Summer of the Gun » in Toronto. 

According to the city’s public school board, the move will also affect programs that encouraged physical activity among  students and offered in-class tutors to children, as well as supports for racialized youth.

Marit Stiles, the NDP education critic, says the cut will be « deeply felt » by Ontario students.

The Toronto District School Board said the cut affects 11 grants administered through a special fund known as the Education Programs — Other (EPO). It is separate from the general operating fund. Programs that will lose funding addressed issues that were deemed to be priorities by previous provincial governments, as well as the federal government, it said.

Government says cut follows review of fund

On Friday, the government sent a memo to school boards about its decision.

« Despite only accounting for less than one per cent of school board funding, this fund has a long track record of wasteful spending, overspending and millions of dollars of unfunded commitments, » Kayla Iafelice, press secretary for Education Minister Lisa Thompson, said in an email to CBC Toronto.

« We have performed a thorough review of the EPO fund to ensure that it better aligns with the needs and priorities of Ontario parents, teachers and students while respecting taxpayer dollars. »

Kayla Iafelice, press secretary for Education Minister Lisa Thompson, pictured here, said in an email to CBC Toronto: ‘Despite only accounting for less than one per cent of school board funding, this fund has a long track record of wasteful spending, overspending and millions of dollars of unfunded commitments.’ (CBC)

Iafelice said, for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, EPO transfer payments will total $400 million to third-party organizations and school boards. The amount represents a $25-million reduction over allocations made in the previous fiscal year, she said.

In a news release, Stiles said the cut shows disregard for school boards and students.

« Doug Ford’s cuts in classrooms are callous, and will only make the education and learning outcome challenges Ontario is facing even worse, » she said.

The NDP said memos were sent to school boards across the province after hours on Friday and that they arrived the day before a public consultation on education was scheduled to end.

Robin Pilkey, chair of the Toronto District School Board, said she is disappointed at the timing, lack of information and lack of detail about whether costs already committed to programs will be covered. (Robin Pilkey/Twitter)

Robin Pilkey, chair of the TDSB, said in an interview on Sunday that the board is trying to make financial sense of the impact of the cut and very little information has been provided. Pilkey is the school trustee for Ward 7, Parkdale-High Park.

Board called in staff to make sense of the cut

« On Friday, after 5 o’clock, an email was received by school boards indicating that there had been changes to the EPOs, » she said. « The information was not very clear. At this point, we do not know the financial implications. We’re not going to know that for several weeks, I don’t think. The impact of this cut is unknown at this time. »

She said she is concerned about the cut, disappointed at how it was handled, but not surprised. The government has been talking about its deficit for months now, she said.

« I think it was disappointing that it was dropped so late in the day. I think it was disappointing that it wasn’t very clear. I think it was disappointing because they cut programs and they don’t say whether boards will be kept whole on these programs because we were obviously running these programs. I mean, we’re in December now, » she said.

The timing of the memo was also surprising, given that the government had not yet completed its consultation on education, which ended on Saturday, she added.

The cuts apply for the 2018 school year, which is well under way. The board called staff in on Saturday to try to make sense of the memo. 

The email had a number of attachments about individual grants, she said. Some of the programs are continuing, some had their funding reduced, some had their funding cut completely. Others were not mentioned at all and the board doesn’t know the status of those ones, she said.

« We don’t why they chose these ones, why these ones and not other ones, » she said.

Staff will have to determine how much has been received for each program and how much has been spent. 

Programs to be cut include Focus on Youth

The programs funded by EPO grants, considered « focused funding areas, » are determined every March by the government and the board has already committed funds to cover staff for programs in this fiscal year, she said. The board doesn’t know if it will be covered for the funds already committed to programs slated to be cancelled.

In March, when the board is told where to spend the grant money, it begins to make plans to do so, she said.

Not every school board has every program funded by the EPO, she added.

The programs to be cancelled immediately include Focus on Youth after school, Tutors in the Classrooms, Experiential Learning for Adults, Indigenous Focused Collaborative Inquiry, Daily Physical Activity – Elementary, Physical Activity for Secondary Students, and Speak Up. The summer program of Focus on Youth is continuing. 

Focus on Youth, for example, was set up to provide activities for students in schools in areas that are considered under-served by other agencies. Students were hired as group leaders and peer mentors in the program. 

Originally, part of the idea behind the program was to steer students away from gangs. « It certainly is an unusual program to cut, » she added.

« It is a program that served students directly. And I think, for that, it is a loss. It doesn’t seem to me that it could be good. »

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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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