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Mayor John Tory wants to keep a lid on Toronto police salary hikes, he tells the Star in a year-end interview

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Mayor John Tory wants to keep a lid on Toronto police salary hikes but says officers don’t compare themselves to other city employees who got below-inflation raises.

Tory made the comment in a year-end interview with the Star Thursday, as he reflected on four years in office and the fresh four-year mandate that lies ahead, thanks to his commanding autumn re-election win.

Tory said he and fellow members of the police services board will soon give negotiators guidelines for talks with the Toronto Police Association, which represents more than 8,000 officers and civilian employees.

In 2015, under Tory, police won pay hikes of 8.64 per cent over four years.

Tory’s administration bargained hard in 2016 with city inside and outside workers represented by CUPE locals, winning below-inflation hikes of about 5 per cent over four-year contracts.

The mayor said he is inclined to see a “relevant comparison” between contracts, but said they aren’t “apples to apples.” Police union officials “negotiate more within the context of what other police officers in the province are making,” rather than other workers paid by the city, he said.

Toronto police first-class constables this year earned a $98,450 base salary, but those receiving maximum “retention pay”, a bonus that survived the last negotiation, earned $107,312. The total police budget will cost taxpayers just over $1 billion this year, most of it in salaries.

“Being a police officer is the most complex policing job that probably exists in the province and they do a very good job at it …,” Tory said. “Ideally, you would have something that is consistent with the overall desire I have as the leader of the council, which is to run a government that can expand services and manage affairs responsibly, but within the context of a low (property) tax increase.”

Another big challenge for Tory in 2019 will be dealing with Premier Doug Ford, the former councillor who settled into office by slashing the size of council in mid-election over the objections of Tory and his council colleagues.

The mayor said the two have since had productive meetings, but acknowledged the busy agenda of Ford’s Progressive Conservative government has not included passage of regulations allowing for the use of traffic wardens, rather than paid-duty police officers at busy intersections, or for the city to issue traffic tickets using photo radar in school zones.

Tory said much of the city’s wait on those safety initatives happened under the previous Liberal government but he remains frustrated. “To me, it underlines that, on these matters, we shouldn’t have to go and ask. We should have the latitude to … make the decision ourselves.”

Nor has the Ford government committed to honoring his predecessor’s pledge to reduce GO train fares within Toronto to $3 to integrate with TTC prices.

“All (the province) has said to me so far is they’re looking at reducing those fares to reduce the gap between the two (fares), but I have no commitment that they are going to do what had previously been agreed upon” and was to have taken effect Jan. 1, Tory said.

Fare integration could help relieve acute congestion on Toronto’s subway lines because riders, especially those in Scarborough, have told him they’d switch to GO for daily commutes if the prices were the same, the mayor added.

It is unclear what say Toronto will have over SmartTrack stations it has agreed to fund in conjunction with provincial Metrolinx’s regional electric rail expansion; the province wants to develop new GO stations in partnership with private developers in exchange for “air rights” to build above the stations.

“I’m not afraid of any of this,” said Tory, who added that the city should examine provincial requests-for-proposals on station development, but, if it doesn’t like the proposals, should be allowed to stick with paying for a station, itself, and deciding on the design.

“I’m quite willing to take a look at the results of such a process, but (am) always quite mindful of the need to have proper planning, and the need for us to have development which is compatible with what is going on in the rest of the city,” Tory said.

Any provincial attempt to using ministerial zoning orders to overrule city zoning guidelines for SmartTrack station construction would be “a serious issue between the City of Toronto and the province of Ontario”, Tory said. “I just don’t anticipate that is what their plans are.”

In his 2017 year-end interview with the Star, Tory said if he won a second mandate he would work more closely with progressive downtown councillors.

His recent choices for committee chairs leaned heavily on past suburban allies, with only, Ana Bailão, from the Toronto-East York community council, a downtown representative. The mayor says now that he honoured his pledge because he tapped Joe Cressy and Paula Fletcher for key posts at city agencies.

“I looked (the pledge) as being a greater inclusion of downtown councillors in the decision-making process of the government … consistent with my own obligation to move the mandate forward that I’ve been given by the people,” to expand transit, increase affordable housing and keep taxes low.

Since re-election Tory has opened the door to the possibility of seeking a third term, something he previously said he would not do. He now says that door remains open, but, as he starts his second term, he is not giving it any thought.

“It’s nothing to do with legacy; it’s everything to do with trying to address transit and housing and build a great city,” the mayor said. “If I saw a threat to that, that might cause me to make a decision that would be more likely to try to continue as mayor.”

David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering Toronto politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider

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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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