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Comments trigger alarm bells over fate of Ontario Place

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Concern over the fate of Ontario Place is growing after its new board chair argued the site is in “complete disrepair” and can be rebuilt “any way” Premier Doug Ford wishes.

Jim Ginou’s comments have triggered alarm bells with city and federal politicians as well as members of the public, who have embraced calls for a rally next Saturday on the future of the shuttered educational amusement park that in recent years has started coming back to life.

Politicians and the public have expressed concerns about the future of Ontario Place after comments by the newly appointed chair. Richard Lautens/Toronto Star File Photo
Politicians and the public have expressed concerns about the future of Ontario Place after comments by the newly appointed chair. Richard Lautens/Toronto Star File Photo  (Richard Lautens / Toronto Star File Photo)

“The opportunity to create an Ontario Place for all Ontarians as a waterfront destination is immense — it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we cannot mess it up,” said Councillor Joe Cressy, whose ward includes the downtown waterfront, in an interview Monday.

“It should be the people of Ontario, and not Doug Ford’s friends, who decide what happens to this gem.”

Cressy is reviewing Toronto’s ownership of land near the site and urging the province to work with city and federal officials, and get public input, rather than make major changes.

Ginou, a Conservative fundraiser and Ford friend appointed chair last week, told Queen’s Park Briefing he personally found Ontario Place’s condition “disgraceful,” adding: “Everything is in complete disrepair, there is nothing that can be saved.

“Because it has to be rebuilt, it can be rebuilt in any way that Ford wants it to be rebuilt.”

Ginou, who previously headed the then-amusement park’s board from 1997 to 2003, said he awaits direction from Ford’s Progressive Conservative government about its future, but he believes the site will become more of an “amusement” destination than a waterfront one.

Ford, elected in June, quickly set his sights on overhauling Ontario Place. He scrapped redevelopment proposals under the previous Liberal government. Plans included building on the $30-million Trillium Park, with the William G. Davis Trail, opened in 2017, and a renovation of the Cinesphere IMAX theatre.

Ginou, who runs a printing company, did not return the Star’s call Monday. Finance Minister Vic Fedeli, asked by CBC Radio about Ginou’s comments, said: “We’ve got a real great opportunity to do something fresh and innovative down there.

“I wouldn’t take anything off the table and I wouldn’t put anything on the table. It’s a clean slate and I think we should look at the whole … project and celebrate something exciting there.”

As city councillor in 2011, Ford proposed a casino, megamall and boat-in casino for the Port Lands to the east. His brother, then-mayor Rob Ford, abandoned that plan after Torontonians and several allies on council opposed those changes.

Adam Vaughan, the Liberal MP who represents the waterfront, met with Cressy on Monday to develop a response to the plans. How governments will manage the waterfront, climate change and flood mitigation of Toronto’s waterfront is vital, he said.

“If we see the waterfront simply as a real estate play, we are going to put the city at risk and do a massive disservice to the public,” he said. “Ontario Place is a golden opportunity and we’d be foolish to throw out 10 years of work and studies to go with a back-of-the-napkin plan.”

Waterfront for All and Park People, two advocacy groups, are expecting more than 150 members of the public to gather at Metro Hall to debate next steps for Ontario Place.

“Horrifying” is how Cindy Wilkey, vice-chair of Waterfront for All, described Ginou’s comments. Some of Ontario Place is in “rough shape,” she said, but added many people are enjoying the use of important sites including Trillium Park and the Cinesphere.

Ontario Place is “not something you can just burn down and start again,” she said.

Cressy said Toronto owns land including the “waterlot” over Lake Ontario between Exhibition Place and Ontario Place, including the bridges, while the provincial government owns all the Ontario Place land.

Among those speaking Saturday will be Ken Greenberg, a prominent urban designer.

Trillium Park on the east edge is an excellent start at revitalizing Ontario Place, he said, and that land would be considered with Exhibition Place for a possible merger as a “different kind of park, not just grass and trees but a lot of public facilities, some paid events and more.”

But any move to scrap the Cinesphere and iconic pods over the water, designed by renowned Canadian architect Eberhard Zeidler, would be a grave mistake, Greenberg said.

“Clearly there is an extraordinary legacy of built artifacts by one of our great architects and enormous potential for adaptive reuse of them,” he said. “What shouldn’t happen is a fire sale of this public resource to a kind of festival entertainment site that would turn it over to the private sector, or treat it as a destination venue disconnected from the public waterfront.”

With files from Robert Benzie

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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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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