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Sudden snow days ‘little less problematic’ for some parents, challenging for others

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When the Toronto District School Board made the rare move to cancel classes across the city because of Tuesday’s winter storm, it was the first time it had done so in eight years — in part because of the impact a decision like that has on thousands of families.

As the country’s largest school board in Canada’s largest city, the TDSB represents some 246,000 children. An email sent Monday ahead of the impending storm by John Malloy, the board’s director of education, noted that closing all schools « causes significant hardship for many families, some of which have no other options readily available for their children. »

British Columbia, too, has had to deal with unlikely school closures this week. Snow forced the shutdown of almost every school district in the Lower Mainland, including Vancouver, Surrey and Abbotsford.

For some single parents, challenges persist. But technology, including social media, has made it easier for some parents to unexpectedly work from home for the day or find caregivers for their children.

‘Little less problematic’

« I think with more and more companies providing their employees with the tools to work from home, it’s a little less problematic than it might have been in years past, » said Kim Shiffman, editor-in-chief of Today’s Parent magazine.

« I know, for example, the parents on my team, everyone brought their laptops home last night in anticipation of this possibility. »

Shiffman herself has two children, aged five and 10, and said she was able to work from home on Tuesday.

« Luckily they are at an age where they don’t require constant supervision, » she said. « And I can get a pretty significant amount of work done with minimal distraction. »

Vehicles make their way along a snow-covered highway in Victoria on Tuesday. A winter storm has pounded British Columbia’s capital, as well as Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

There are certainly parents in jobs who cannot work from home, but Shiffman believes those parents are a little more prepared for these kind of snow-day situations, from having to deal with staying at home with a sick child.

In her community, she said she noticed some stay-at-home parents and those on maternity leave offering assistance through messages posted online. Facebook has been a boon in creating tight-knit communities that allow people to reach out to try and support other parents, she said.

« I saw home daycare providers in my neighbourhood Facebook mom group saying: ‘I usually have this many kids, but today I only have one. So I actually have room to take two kids if anyone’s desperate. »

Not everyone has flexibility

But for some single parents, friends can’t step in, and grandparents and family don’t live near enough to help, according to Marianne Sorensen, executive director of the 1Up Victoria Single Parent Resource Centre in B.C.

« There isn’t another parent who can maybe take a day off work and stay home or help figure it out, » Sorensen told CBC’s On The Island.

« Lots of the single parents we work with are relatively isolated, » Sorensen said. « They’re really busy taking care of their kids and working jobs to make ends meet, and so many of them don’t have a strong social network of support. »

Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, said hundreds of thousands of children can be at loose ends when their schools and daycare are shuttered, causing a considerable impact on parents and on the companies who employ them.

High school teacher Melissa Watson takes advantage of a snow day by cross-country skiing on the streets in Burlington, Ont., on Tuesday. (Peter Power/Canadian Press)

In some cases, kids are able to come to work with their parents. But in other cases, that’s just not possible.

« One of the things that has been helpful though over the last little while is … increasingly people are able to work remotely, where that was just not possible a decade or two ago, » he said.

« We’ve got people that are taking telephone calls, small-business owners across the country [where] that can be done using VoIP and other systems — they can pretty much be done from wherever. »

Kelly acknowledged, however, that if you’re in if you’re in bricks-and-mortar retail, a restaurant or a factory, that doesn’t give you very much flexibility — or comfort.

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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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