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In Quebec, Conservatives are hoping Liberals can’t fight city hall




The Conservatives want to pick up seats in Quebec in October’s federal election and are lining up veterans of municipal politics to get them.

The latest name added to that list is Robert Coutu, who was announced on Tuesday as the Conservative candidate in the riding of La Pointe-de-l’Île on the island of Montreal. Coutu, the mayor of Montréal-Est, will try to win the seat currently held by the Bloc Québécois.

The Conservatives and their predecessor parties haven’t won a seat on the island of Montreal since 1988. Most of those seats subsequently flipped over to the Bloc in 1993. It is no coincidence that Michel Gauthier, a former leader of the Bloc, was present for the announcement of Coutu’s candidacy. The path to Conservative gains in Quebec runs, in part, through the sovereignist party.

It also runs through territory swept by the right-of-centre Coalition Avenir Québec in last fall’s provincial election.

For Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to target a seat on the island of Montreal is ambitious, as his party has long struggled to breakthrough into the suburbs surrounding the city, let alone on the island itself. But the CAQ accomplished the feat, making it the first small-c conservative party since 1976 to win seats there. Both of those seats are located within the boundaries of the federal riding of La Pointe-de-l’Île at the far eastern tip of the island.

Nevertheless, Coutu has a supremely difficult task ahead of him. The Conservatives took just eight per cent of the vote in the riding in 2015 while the Bloc won it in a three-way race with the Liberals and the NDP. Mario Beaulieu, the incumbent Bloc MP, has some profile as the on-again, off-again leader of the beleaguered party. Only last week, he made way for Yves-François Blanchet, the latest occupant of that title.

And while Coutu has some local renown, his appeal is likely to be somewhat limited. Montréal-Est is a small municipality of less than 4,000 in a riding of over 100,000 people.

Local credibility to compensate for Scheer’s low profile

Coutu is one of a number of candidates the Conservatives have recruited to fill some of the credibility gaps that Scheer has in the province.

Quebecers have a long history of preferring homegrown leaders over those from other provinces. In that regard, Scheer — who grew up in Ottawa and now represents a riding in Saskatchewan — will be the odd-man out on a debate stage that will include not only Blanchet and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but potentially People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier as well.

For a party whose main pitch to Quebecers is that a Conservative government will respect provincial jurisdiction — Scheer has said he would be prepared to work with Premier François Legault on lowering immigration and having Quebecers file only one tax return to the provincial government — leaning on local champions might prove to be a winning strategy.

The party has already drawn from that playbook. Alain Rayes, Scheer’s Quebec lieutenant, picked-up the riding of Richmond–Arthabaska for the party in 2015 thanks in part to his profile as the former mayor of Victoriaville.

Conservative MP Alain Rayes speaks during question period in the House of Commons at Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 19, 2018. (David Kawai/Canadian Press)

Quebec MPs Luc Berthold and Bernard Généreux are also former mayors, while the party scored a stunning upset in the Chicoutimi–Le Fjord byelection last year on the strength of a strong local candidate. Richard Martel, who won the riding away from the Liberals, is a former coach of the Chicoutimi Saguenéens, a major junior hockey team.

The Liberals have also used this strategy with success. Ramez Ayoub, Anthony Housefather and Jean Rioux, all former Quebec mayors, were newly-elected for the Liberals in the 2015 federal election. More recently, the Liberals won the riding of Lac-Saint-Jean in a byelection in 2017 thanks to Richard Hébert, former mayor of Dolbeau-Mistassini. In 2015, the riding had been the Liberals’ worst east of the Prairies.

Mayor lined-up to take down Bernier

In addition to Coutu, the Conservatives have two mayors nominated in ridings they currently do not hold. Mario Provencher, who was the mayor of Rouyn-Noranda from 2009 to 2017, will carry the party banner in Abitibi–Témiscamingue. The CAQ holds one of the two provincial ridings that make up the federal district and came a close second in the other.

Here again the Conservatives face an uphill climb — the party had just seven per cent of the vote in a riding won by the NDP’s Christine Moore with 42 per cent in 2015. Provencher was also defeated in the 2017 municipal election, though he still managed 28 per cent support in the city of 42,000 people.

But the most interesting candidacy might be Richard Lehoux’s in the riding of Beauce. The Conservatives are focused on defeating Bernier in his own seat to nip his People’s Party in the bud.

Richard Lehoux, left, will run for the Conservatives in the riding of Beauce, currently occupied by People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Lehoux was the mayor of Saint-Elzéar from 1998 to 2017. Though the small town has a population of 2,400, Lehoux has also served as the president of the Fédération québécoise des municipalités, an organization representing small municipalities across the province. A poll conducted in November by Mainstreet Research found Lehoux ahead of Bernier with 38 to 35 per cent support, though the margin of error of the poll effectively put the race as a toss-up.

There have also been persistent rumours that Yves Lévesque, long-time mayor of Trois-Rivières, would run for the Conservatives. Lévesque recently stepped down for health reasons, potentially putting a jump to the federal level on hold. But when Lévesque announced his departure, his spokesperson would not rule out a future run for federal office.

Unlike some of these other ridings, the Conservatives have good prospects in Trois-Rivières. The party had 19 per cent support in the riding in 2015, putting it third in a four-way contest. The NDP’s Robert Aubin won it with just 32 per cent of the vote. 

The CAQ also comfortably swept the three ridings that share territory with the federal seat.

The Conservatives haven’t limited their candidate search to mayor’s offices — François Corriveau, a former MNA for the Action Démocratique du Québec, which merged with the CAQ in 2012, will take on the Bloc in the eastern Quebec riding of Manicouagan. Corriveau is the president of the junior hockey team Baie-Comeau Drakkar. François Desrochers, another former ADQ MNA, will run for the Conservatives in Mirabel, where the CAQ romped to victory in the fall.

Scheer’s Conservatives still lag behind the Liberals in Quebec by a significant margin in the polls. Barring a sudden case of Scheermanie sweeping the province, if the party is going to make gains it will have to be riding by riding. Recruiting reputable candidates with pre-existing local networks of support is a good place to start.


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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme




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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‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year




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




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.


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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