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Trudeau vulnerable in fall election amid growing damage from SNC-Lavalin file

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By resigning his position as principal secretary to Justin Trudeau amid allegations of political interference in the judicial file of the engineering firm SNC-Lavalin, Gerald Butts, the prime minister’s longtime friend and alter ego, may hope to deflect the potentially lethal friendly fire that is headed straight for Trudeau.

Butts was the official who had the most dealings with former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould over her time in the cabinet. As he noted in his resignation statement, he recruited her to federal politics.

Those dealings included discussions of the SNC-Lavalin file. Sources say Butts was already in Wilson-Raybould’s crosshairs when she talked with Trudeau hours before she resigned from the cabinet last week.

But based on his categorical assertion that he never crossed into interference territory in his conversations with Wilson-Raybould, Butts may end up only having taken himself out of the direct line of fire.

The sight of PMO blood in the water is unlikely to distract the opposition parties from the main prey that is the prime minister himself. Stephen Harper who abruptly lost chief of staff Nigel Wright over the Senate spending scandal can testify to that.

Those who believe Trudeau sanctioned a plan to try to force Wilson-Raybould to spare SNC-Lavalin a criminal trial that could have negative consequences for its commercial future by offering it a remediation agreement will find validation in his principal secretary’s resignation.

And while no one is irreplaceable losing a central player such as Butts on the eve of a re-election campaign stands to compound the damage to the Liberals.

For even before it became a political hurricane the timing of this crisis had already made it a perfect storm.

It is not just that it will be hard for the government to shovel itself out of this latest hole if Wilson-Raybould — as most expect notwithstanding Butts’ decision to leave — does bury Trudeau in allegations of political interference.

If it comes down to a choice between his word and that of the former justice minister, there is no guarantee the prime minister will come out as the more credible.

At this juncture, many voters — including some who supported the Liberals in the last election — are already preconditioned to believe Wilson-Raybould’s version over anyone else’s. Over the past week, Trudeau had a big hand in that preconditioning.

Since the Globe and Mail broke the story each of his interventions has added fuel to the fire he was trying to put down.

With the House of Commons reopening Tuesday after a weeklong pause, there is little left of Trudeau’s initial denial but still no convincing or consistent government interpretation of the events that have, over the adjournment, led the former attorney-general to leave the cabinet and lawyer up and the prime minister’s right-hand man to resign.

The latest developments on the PMO front only add a new twist to an already confused plot.

Up until the political interference allegations surfaced 10 days ago, the upcoming general election looked like Trudeau’s to lose.

But now it has become easier to trace a path to defeat for the ruling Liberals than at any time since they took office in 2015.

Which in a roundabout way brings one to NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s future. By now, his victory in next Monday’s Burnaby South by-election should be a foregone conclusion.

If Singh can’t win in a relatively safe NDP riding that happens to be located at ground zero of the movement against the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and after a campaign whose last stretch is unfolding against the backdrop of the worst crisis in Trudeau’s tenure, he truly is a lost cause. (To a lesser degree the same could be said of Outremont, the other NDP riding in play next week.)

Chances are the ranks of the Liberals who are rooting for Singh in Monday’s vote in the belief that his so far unimpressive leadership will help drive support their way next fall have swelled over the past week.

For many of the progressive voters who are turned off by Trudeau’s evasive explanations or unhappy over his treatment of a leading Indigenous female minister or repelled by the notion that the government may have sought to cut a deal with a well-connected firm with a dismal ethical record, turning to the Conservatives is not necessarily an option.

At the rate that the prime minister has been losing control of the SNC-Lavalin narrative and with collateral damage spreading to the highest levels of his own office, all that may keep Trudeau from leading his party back to opposition next fall is a weak NDP.

Chantal Hébert is a columnist based in Ottawa covering politics. Follow her on Twitter: @ChantalHbert

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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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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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