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Why aren’t our federal politicians held to account for what they say in election ads?

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Justin Trudeau dropped a couple of big hints about the coming budget in a video he released on social media this week.

It’s a transit-themed video. The prime minister appears at a variety of transit stops — including the GO station he visited in Milton, Ont, just last week — to boast that his federal Liberals have kept their word on building infrastructure across Canada.

“This month we’ll be announcing everything we’ve done and announcing new projects to create good, middle-class jobs and build the infrastructure we need,” Trudeau says.

So we learn two things from that one-minute video: Trudeau’s last budget before the election will likely land this month (bet on the last week of February) and it will include new announcements for infrastructure programs across the country.

Trudeau isn’t the only one doing videos either.

Both ads were withdrawn after a bit of a backlash, but one does wonder whether this is some kind of new publicity tactic on the part of the Conservatives. Retracting the ads, after all, may have yielded more attention to the attack ads than the Conservatives would have achieved without the outcry. If it happens a third time, assume that this is a new wrinkle in Canadian political-ad wars: advance, retreat, advance again.

It wouldn’t be the first time that Conservatives have blazed an advertising trail either in Canada. When they were in government from 2006 to 2015, they were the first to make extensive use of attack ads against opponents in between official campaign periods, with relentless waves of advertising against successive leaders Stéphane Dion, Michael Ignatieff and Trudeau.

For the most part, Canadians have been spared that perpetual ad campaign over the past three and a half years.

But have the ad wars begun for the 2019 campaign? It would seem so, though Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has been out on the TV advertising circuit for a while now with mainly positive ads, introducing himself to Canadians as a guy who’s far more in touch with middle-class suburbanites than the prime minister is.

I couldn’t get an answer from the Liberals when I asked who paid for Trudeau’s new video — Liberal contributors or Canadian taxpayers? (Presumably they’ll be upping their game on promised ad “transparency” before the election.) But the focus on infrastructure and transit is very much linked to Liberal advertising of the past.

Back in the 2015 campaign, using data culled from the party’s massive voter outreach efforts, Trudeau walked into a studio one day and recorded 40 different ads, promising to fix individual infrastructure issues identified as the largest concerns in 40 different communities. You may even remember hearing them — Trudeau talking about water-quality issues in your town or gridlock you were encountering on your commute to work.

It would be a worthwhile exercise to measure this month’s announcements from Trudeau against those promises in the 40 radio ads. (Unfortunately, no archive seems to exist.) Perhaps the Trudeau government has already taken stock of its long-ago promises, and the infrastructure-themed video this week is a bid to tie up some loose ends from the 2015 campaign.

Ads are the most powerful tools the political parties have for communicating with the voters. More people will view ads than the relatively few who sift through the party platforms or who closely read the political news (sorry to have to acknowledge this.)

On the question of ad accountability, however, we here in Canada are somewhat behind the times. We don’t require politicians to personally endorse the ad claims at the end of the spot, as they do in the United States, and we in the media tend to keep track more on what the parties are spending than on what they say or promise in those 20- to 30-second spots.

This election year is a good time to shift that approach; to hold the leaders and the parties accountable for the content of the advertising they’re now writing and filming to fill up the airwaves and our social-media feeds.

If the ad war is about to begin, complete with transit-stop videos and retracted claims, then that accountability effort should start now too.

Susan Delacourt is the Star’s Ottawa bureau chief and a columnist covering national politics. Reach her via email: sdelacourt@thestar.ca or follow her on Twitter: @susandelacourt

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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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