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A look inside Canada’s oldest and smallest legislature on its 200th anniversary

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The wooden boards creak and shift as Peter Theriault walks across them, moving deeper into the steeple-like attic of Nova Scotia’s provincial legislature.

On his left is a sparsely-decorated space with a single solitary wooden chair in the middle. To his right is a long hallway, flanked by small, almost closet-sized rooms. Even further down is a nearly identical empty space.

It’s a mild mid-January day in Halifax and the attic is well-lit, with the harsh yellow glow of the overhead lights being diffused by the natural sunlight filtering through the attic’s semi-circle windows.

“Make sure you don’t step on a ‘Red X,’” Theriault calls, pointing out examples of the spray-painted letter scattered across the floor.

Peter Theriault, coordinator of operations at the Nova Scotia Legislature on January 24, 2019

Alexander Quon/Global News

They’re the only visual clue that the flooring could give away.

A worker found out the hard way a few years ago, when the wood panelling gave away, dropping the man roughly a metre down. Theriault says the worker was lucky that his nether regions didn’t land on a pole.

The boards are suspended a couple metres above the ceiling of the legislature’s ceremonial chambers. In between the ceiling and the attic’s floor is a rat’s nest of cables and wires that activate lights and feed data from the cameras, microphones and transceivers that power Nova Scotia Legislature TV.

WATCH: Nova Scotia launches African Heritage Month






Typically, the attic is off limits to the public and staff members rarely come up here, but Theriault knows the space well. He’s been the coordinator of operations at the legislature for 31 years.

He knows almost every nook and cranny in the building, and if he doesn’t, he can find someone who does.

On the far side of the attic,Theriault removes the wooden cover of a ventilation duct.

Looking down the vent and through the decorative features of the plaster roofing, it’s the space below that draws the eye.

Peering through a vent in the attic of the Nova Scotia legislature allows our camera to see the legislative chamber below.

Alexander Quon/Global News

It’s there, inside the province’s legislative chamber, that Nova Scotian politicians have debated and disagreed, governors-general have been sworn in and Royal Family members have been hosted when they visited Canada.

The province’s legislature has stood the test of time, opening a little less than 49 years before Canada became a nation.

Nova Scotia’s legislative assembly has met every year for the last 200 years in Province House — making it the oldest legislative building in Canada.

READ MORE: Halifax’s buried rail tracks make way for progress

The House on the hill

Located in the heart of downtown Halifax,  the legislature sits halfway up the steep hill that leads from the city’s waterfront to the top of Citadel Hill.

A short, squat three-storey building, its regal exterior stands in contrast to the buildings of reflective glass and burnished steel that now tower over it.

Enclosed by a large iron fence and built in the Palladian architectural style — a system that emphasizes symmetry — the building’s perfect proportions of 43 metres long and 21.5 metres deep make the legislature a remnant of a different time.

Its size makes it the smallest legislature in Canada and its unique architecture and place in Candian history have earned it the distinction being named a National Historic Site.

A photo of Province House from 1890.

Notman Studio/Nova Scotia Archives

But it wasn’t always that way.

The first representative government in Nova Scotia had no permanent home when it first met at the court house at the corner of Argyle and Buckingham Streets in October of 1758.

Their meeting place would move a number of times over the next two decades before they eventually landed on the Cochran’s Building — currently the site of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

Multiple motions passed in 1797, 1799 and 1800 called for the creation of a new “Public Building” that would house a “General assembly, Court of Chancery, Supreme Court, and Court of Admiralty, and Public Offices” for the province, but it did nothing to make a legislature a reality.

It wasn’t until 1809, when members of the assembly recognized their then-current home was in a “ruinous and decayed state,” that efforts to make a new home began in earnest.

Finally, in 1811, Governor George Prevost’s Speech from the Throne recognized that Cochran’s Building was no longer suitable for the Legislature.

“The prosperous state of this Province, requires that the different Branches of the Legislature, – the Courts of Justice, and the Public Offices, should be better accommodated than they are at present – I therefore recommend that object to your consideration,” he said.

A motion in the Journals of Nova Scotia that specifies the requirements for constructing the province’s new legislature.

Alexander Quon/Global News

The cornerstone of the building was laid on August 12, 1811.

But due to shortages in skilled labourers, labour disputes and the War of 1812, it would take eight more years and £52,000 before Nova Scotia’s legislature would be ready for the public.

Portions of the building were still unfinished the day that the legislative assembly met for the first time in Province House. But that didn’t stop guests from pouring through the gates to hear the Earl of Dalhousie read his Speech from the Throne on Feb. 11, 1819.

“The circumstance of meeting you for the first time in this place, leads me to congratulate you on now occupying this splendid building,” he said.

“It stands, and will stand, I hope, to the latest posterity, a proud record of the Public spirit as this period of our History.”

READ MORE: A piece of Canadian firefighting history returns to Halifax

Joseph Howe and Responsible Government

It did not take long for Nova Scotia and Province House to leave its mark on the future country of Canada.

As well as serving as Nova Scotia’s legislature, Province House was home to the Nova Scotia Legislative Council — an executive body that was abolished in 1928  — and the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.

What now functions as the Legislative Library was once the Supreme Court’s home.

The room has been modified since the Supreme Court moved out of the space in 1860.

Henry F. Busch was the architect of the 1862 transformation which saw racks, cast iron and intricate woodwork being added to the chamber.

But the most regal feature is the mirrored stairs that lead up to the libraries upper balcony.

“I remember a time when the tours that would come through would say that the dual staircases reminded them of Titanic,” Theriault said.

“Now they all say it looks like Harry Potter.”

A 360° photograph of Nova Scotia’s Legislative Library

/Communications Nova Scotia

If you look close enough, a homage or two to the room’s previous purpose can be found.

In the library, there is a simple set of scales hanging above a doorway, a symbol used by Lady Justice to measure the strength of a legal case’s support and opposition.

It’s also here on March 2, 1835, that one of most famous legal cases in Nova Scotian history was fought.

Joseph Howe was the editor of the Novascotian, a weekly newspaper, when he was charged with seditious libel after a letter he wrote accused local magistrates and the police of stealing £30,000 over a 30 year period.

Howe represented himself at the trial, putting forth a lengthy and eloquent defence to the jury for a little more than six hours.

“Your verdict will be the most important in its consequences ever delivered before this tribunal,” he argued.

“Judge me by the principles of English law, and to leave an unshackled press as a legacy to your children.”

It took only 10 minutes of deliberation for him to be acquited.

One of the first books that examined the history of Nova Scotia this book, written by Thomas C. Haliburton and published by Joseph Howe, remains in the Legislative Libraries special collections.

Alexander Quon/Global News

Scholars can and have disputed whether the case really changed anything in the legal world. But to the Nova Scotia Legislature, Howe is a source of pride, while to journalists he’s viewed as one of the fathers of freedom of the press in Canada.

In the first issue of the Novascotian after the trial, Howe wrote that “the press of Nova-Scotia is Free.”

It’s a remark that is echoed at the entrance of the library by a plaque dating to 1961 that bears the following inscription:

“In this room on March 2, 1836, Joseph Howe, publisher of the weekly newspaper The Nova Scotian, defended himself in an action for criminal Libel. His masterly defence, not only won him a triumphant acquittal, but established, forever, the freedom of the press in this country.”

Howe would continue to leave his mark on the province, eventually joining politics and leading a campaign for responsible government — a system of accountability where the government is responsible to the parliament, rather than the monarch.

“[James Boyle] Uniacke was the premier under responsible government, but it was Howe’s fight,” Theriault said.

Implemented in the colony in 1848, Nova Scotia was the first British Colony to be governed by a responsible government.

Howe would later serve as the colony’s third premier and continues to be honoured in its legislative chamber.

Nova Scotia Lt.-Gov. Arthur LeBlanc delivers the speech from the throne at the legislature in Halifax on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.

The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan

A history in photographs

Two paintings flank the Speaker’s chair inside the chamber.

An 1875 portrait of Howe rests on the right-hand side, while a canvas portrait of former premier James William Johnston is on the left.

Both were painted by Henry Sandham and decorated with a gold-coloured frame, which makes them stand out from the wooden furniture and chairs covered in green fabric.

A series of more demure photos line the white walls of the chamber.

A 360° photo of the Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly.

/Communications Nova Scotia

A portrait of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip hangs to the left of the entrance, while a painting of John Sparrow David Thompson is a little farther down.

Although he’s not a household name, Theriault says Thompson earned his position in the chamber by being the fifth premier of Nova Scotia and fourth Prime Minister of Canda.

He was one of the three prime ministers to be from Nova Scotia and has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the two Canadian prime ministers to die in office, the first being Sir John A. Macdonald.

Thompson, while at Windsor Castle, died from a massive heart attack after he was sworn in as a member of the Imperial Privy Council.

Portraits of Gladys Porter, the first woman to be elected to the House of Assembly in 1961, and Wayne Adams, the first Black member to be elected in 1993, are featured as well.

A portrait of William Stevens Fielding, premier of Nova Scotia between 1884 and 1896, hangs behinds the government benches of premier Stephen Mcneil and the Nova Scotia Liberal Party.

A portrait of Charles Tupper, who was premier of Nova Scotia from 1864 to 1867, led the province into Confederation and was the sixth prime minister of Canda, hangs behind the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party.

The most recent addition to the chamber is a portrait of Darrell Dexter, who served as the first NDP premier in the province’s history from 2009 to 2013.

“Three of the portraits in the room move,” Theriault says.

As new governments take power in Nova Scotia, the images of Fielding, Tupper and now Dexter will shift to hang behind their party’s seats.

READ MORE: Former Nova Scotia premier Darrell Dexter talks life as a cannabis adviser and state of the NDP

Lost to time

Many things have changed since the Earl of Dalhousie opened the legislature 200 years ago. Rooms within the building have been modified and ceilings have been lowered, but the attic has stayed mostly the same.

“It is probably one of the oldest things in the building. It’s changed but not majorly,”  Theriault says as he gives a tour of the attic, one of the few rooms that remains relatively empty — despite the building’s limited space remaining at a premium.

“We do what we can with what we have.”

The attic of Nova Scotia’s legislature is normally off limits. But it contains some of the best kept secrets in the building.

Alexander Quon/Global News

But even up here, the past has found a way to stick around. The wooden beams that support the roof have marks and names carved into them — a date here, a pair of names there.

The oldest one dates back to 1903.

“Some of the older names we are assuming were trades people that were working in the building,” said Theriault.

“I can’t guarantee that for sure, but it’s kind of neat to think someone who worked in the building way back when they worked here.”

Others are more recent, like a former MLA and a recent page who worked for the assembly.

Leaning in one corner of the roof and covered in dust is a pair of large wooden crowns.

Peter Theriault and his staff believe that these crowns, which were once able to light up, were used during the Royal Tour of Canada in 1939.

Alexander Quon/Global News

Theriault says his staff’s best guess is that the pair of crowns date back to when King George and Queen Elizabeth visited Halifax at the end of their 1939 Royal Tour of Canada.

But they’re not sure, and it’s doubtful that they’ll ever truly know.

That’s the nature of a building that has existed longer than the country it resides in.

Events are forgotten and artifacts become lost as those who knew about them grow old and retire, only for them to be unearthed again at an unexpected moment.

WATCH: A piece of WWI history returns to Cape Breton community after being discovered in a thrift shop






Theriault unearths one of his own while providing the tour of the attic.

As he points out another set of names carved into the wooden walls of the attic, he notices a dark piece of slate hammered into one of the columns.

“I think that’s one of the old roofing tiles,” he said.

A notice from the Office of Board of Works in the Royal Gazette, later provided by Theriault, indicates that he was at least on the right path.

“Taking off old shingles and lead on the roof over the main building… and covering the same with new Welch Dutchess Slates,” the notice, dated to 1854, reads.

A piece of slate tile that Peter Theriault discovered while giving a tour. He believes it may have been one of the old slate tiles that covered the roof.

Alexander Quon/Global News

To show just how unreliable some of the documentation is, even historians aren’t sure who the designer of Province House is.

The most likely candidate appears to be John Merrick, who was a painter and glazier.

The province’s Journals and Statues state that Merrick created the design, while an article from 1826 in the Acadian Magazine attributes it to Richard Scott, a master builder and the supervising architect for the project.

A page within An Album of Drawings of Early Buildings in Nova Scotia by Arthur W. Wallace, shows some of the designs used in Nova Scotia’s Province House.

Alexander Quon/Global News

But the uncertainty gives the building character, and it gives Theriault an interesting story to tell as he educates the pages and the tour guides that pass on the knowledge to the public at large.

It’s the little things that he is happiest to share: the intricate details of the plaster above a fireplace in the ceremonial red chamber, or the handkerchief that was once owned by Queen Victoria displayed in the hallway of Province House.

The little things — the symbols of what have come before — were echoed by Speaker Kevin Murphy, when he offered up these thoughts on the legislature’s 200th anniversary.

Province House is the symbolic home for all Nova Scotians and the centre of our democratic process,” Murphy said.

“The 200th anniversary of Province House allows Nova Scotians to reflect on our shared values and achievements as aprovince, both past and present.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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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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