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Pride Parade police ban is a self-crippling move




Cops: Gay Pride is just not that into you.

The rainbow flag doesn’t include a swath of blue — or black and white actually, which are the colours of the Toronto Police Service uniform. These are uniforms-non-grata for the Pride Parade, as determined by a razor thin 163-161 Pride Toronto membership vote on Tuesday.

Police Chief Mark Saunders talks to other parade participants during Toronto’s annual Pride Parade in 2016. Members who voted to exclude police from this year’s parade may well be contributing to Pride Toronto’s financial crisis, Rosie DiManno writes.
Police Chief Mark Saunders talks to other parade participants during Toronto’s annual Pride Parade in 2016. Members who voted to exclude police from this year’s parade may well be contributing to Pride Toronto’s financial crisis, Rosie DiManno writes.  (Steve Russell / Toronto Star)

No uniforms for the parade, certainly no cop float or cruisers, thus no inclusive police presence at this summer’s 39th annual parade, so three annual parades in a row excluding officers — gay or straight or whatever — unless they participate in civvies. The moratorium is binding for two years, according to a pre-vote email circulated by Pride Toronto.

Controversy swirled around the vote, with allegations that 244 names were added to the membership roll within 48 hours preceding the special general meeting, almost doubling the numbers. As well, some expressed concern about the transparency, for those unable to attend, of an online voting format that had never been used before.

All of this in advance of next Tuesday’s annual general meeting to elect three new board members and closed to the media.

Going on three years now — since Black Lives Matter halted the 2016 parade — that a celebratory event which brings immense prestige to the city has been embroiled in divisive politics and flaring emotion.

I am sympathetic to members of the LGBTQ community who don’t want their space invaded by cops. There are compelling historical reasons for distrust. And, in more recent history, apprehensions were further entrenched by a shambolic investigation of serial murderer preying on men in the Gay Village, alarm bells raised that rang and rang and rang, from within the neighbourhood, before police doubled down on their probe of men who had gone missing and an arrest was finally made, mere weeks after Chief Mark Saunders assured there was no serial killer out there.

If I was gay and I had a vote, it would be: No. A purely gut response.

But I am straight and my non-vote would be: Yes.

Because the parade is in financial peril. Because the parade, hosted by the Gay Village, is an otherwise open invitation to the city. Because attendance was so obviously in decline in 2018, doubtless in part because the gay community was still grieving over its losses, but also, I would argue, due to a public backlash against Pride Toronto. The organization’s audit for 2018 claims attendance for Pride Festival events was up, to 2.6 million. My eyes do not believe it.

Nor, for one moment, do I believe that any gay individual would feel “unsafe” in the parade presence of uniformed officers, particularly since officers will be there anyway on professional duty. It’s what the uniform represents that raises hackles. A contact flinch. An undercurrent of bitterness. A toxic dislike that may be justifiable and certainly not exclusive to the gay community.

It seemed, as recently as October, that the wrangle had been resolved or was at least headed toward peacemaking. Olivia Nuameh, Pride’s executive director, hit all the conciliatory grace notes in announcing, with Saunders at her side, that the board would welcome an application from Toronto police to march in 2019.

What was the purpose of that announcement, widely well-received, when the board apparently misread the tenor of its membership? Nuameh — who didn’t return a call from the Star on Friday — had been made to look inept and Saunders a supplicating fool.

Behind-the-scenes outreach between police liaison officers, the mayor’s office and Pride Toronto have been wrecked by what is essentially a small rump of the gay dissident faction with no explanation for why Pride even held a narrow one-question vote with so small a pivotal forum: “Should the Toronto Police Service be permitted to participate in Pride Toronto’s Festival Weekend, Parade and Streetfair, to include their uniforms and vehicles?”

Not that Pride Toronto was necessary driven by reconciliatory motivation. The organization is tangled up in debt, $700,00 in the red, with an operating deficit of $250,000 last year, its temporary lifeline a $300,000 line of credit.

Even with a drop in sponsorship revenue, this is difficult to reckon for an event that pours revenue into the city’s coffers: As per the economic impact section of the auditor’s report, posted online, the Pride Festival contributed an estimated $681 million to Ontario’s GDP, supported 5,000 direct jobs, and generated $270 million in combined federal, provincial and municipal tax revenues. Attendees spent $305 million in Pride-related purchases over Parade weekend alone and $379 million during Pride Month.

The imbalance is puzzling, as are the stark financial projections for 2019, despite cost-cutting undertakings that will see the number of stages reduced from 14 to three and ticketed events increased from four to 10.

"The festival this year is going to be very much slimmed down," Pride's executive director Olivia Nuamah told the Star, a day after the organization's members narrowly voted against allowing uniformed police officers to march in this year's parade.
« The festival this year is going to be very much slimmed down, » Pride’s executive director Olivia Nuamah told the Star, a day after the organization’s members narrowly voted against allowing uniformed police officers to march in this year’s parade.  (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star)

A confidential backgrounder to Tuesday’s vote, sent to members and obtained by NOW Magazine, observes that the police disinvitation — coupled with a “significant internal reorganization” — accounted for a gap in corporate and public funding that “has had long term impacts on the financial health of our organization, the main one being mounting debt.”

Minutes of Pride Toronto’s Oct. 15, 2018 board meeting, also obtained via NOW digging, suggest funding problems faced by the organization prompted the decision to beckon police back into the Pride fold. The minutes state that Pride is at risk of becoming intolerably insolvent and the organization was relying on “funding focused on facilitating ongoing dialogue to try to ease tensions between the LGBTQ2+ community and police” to stay afloat.

Some, fed up with the whole shemozzle, have been advocating for all levels of government to pull Pride funding should the police ban not be reversed. This would be as wrong-headed as the ban itself.

About five per cent of Canadians identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. That’s some 140,000 in Toronto, although obviously the numbers would skew higher for an urban metropolis with such a vivid gay community.

The city is blessed by Gay Pride cha-ching. I see no point in exacting vengeance from the community — and Toronto — by crippling the event fiscally.

But the anti-popo gospel, invoked by an antagonistic wee minority, is misanthropic and mutilating for a grand event beloved by all.

Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno


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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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