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Alberta couple turn their garage into ‘awesome’ vintage arcade

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While residential garages are generally home to cars, trucks and household junk, one Edmonton area couple has turned theirs into a fully-functional arcade.

Mathew Russell and his wife Shawna Russell Spady are the proprietors of Short Circuit Arcade in Strathcona County, which they recently began renting out for parties and special events.

Complete with a carpet that glows under a black light and a dance floor, the gaming space was custom built as an extension of their house, after Russell’s private collection outgrew their basement.

‘A game for everybody’ 

Each coin-operated game has been lovingly restored by Russell during his spare time from his day job as an electrical engineer. A few dozen more games are in storage, waiting to be refurbished.

Once inside, Russell hopes his customers get acquainted with some old friends and foes like Donkey Kong, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Pac-Man or Popeye. 

Short Circuit Arcade is home to more than 100 fully restored arcade games. (Short Circuit)

“There are 86 vintage games in here. There will be around 120 when we’re complete, so there will be a game for anybody,” Russell said in an interview with Edmonton AM.

“They’re all awesome.” 

It all started with a single game Russell spotted for sale on Kijiji a few years ago — a Japanese-made, joystick-operated classic which allows players to defeat hordes of evil people.

“It was Ninja Gaiden and I was like, ‘Oh. I remember this game.’ As a kid, I put a lot of quarters into it and I could never finish it.”

Russell happily shelled out $100, and after a few beeps and boop noises from the old machine, he was hooked.

“From there, I kept looking and I realized there’s more and more for sale,” Russell said.

“They’re not as cheap anymore. They’re getting more popular so the prices are going up.”

Russell grew up racing cars and defeating villains on the machines. He started playing as a kid growing up in Olds.

Whenever his family went bowling, he would rush over to the attached arcade to spend his change. 

A passion for vintage video games inspired Mathew Russell and Shawna Russell Spady to build an arcade inside their garage. 1:14

“My mom would give me four quarters and I would run over and play some games. I wasn’t very good at it but it was awesome.”

Big plans for a ‘great space’ 

An arcade called Short Circuit was his favourite hangout in high school. He was sad when the old place shut down and wanted to play homage to it with his new business. 

“We would go there every lunch hour and after school, as much as we could and just hang out, play some games if we had money or eat some french fries and gravy,” he said.  

Constructing the gaming space came with its challenges. County officials thought Russell’s vision for a home-based arcade was too large for his standard residential lot.

He redesigned the blueprints until the extension was just big enough to get a permit.

“We just kept having to appease them and we ended up with the space we have now which is 2,300 square feet,” he said.

“It’s a great space.”

I married into this and now l love playing.– Shawna Russell Spady

For her part, Russell Spady didn’t grow up playing in the arcade. There wasn’t one in her hometown of Lamont, but she has grown to love them and gained a competitive streak.

“I grew up playing Nintendo when my brother made enough money to buy one but I married into this and now l love playing the games,” she said. 

She said Donkey Kong Junior from 1982 is her favourite because she can always win.

“It’s the only game I can beat him consistently on. Otherwise he beats me very, very much, by a lot,” she said.

“It’s a wonderful Friday night date to come out here and play.”

Mathew Russell all dressed up to play some Mario Brothers. (Short Circuit)

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Federal Budget 2021: Ottawa adds $1B to broadband fund for rural, remote communities

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The federal government will add $1 billion to a fund for improving high-speed communications in rural and remote areas of Canada, bringing the total to $2.75 billion by 2026, the Liberals said Monday in their first full budget since the pandemic began last year.

The money is going to the Universal Broadband Fund, which is designed to support the installation of “backbone” infrastructure that connects underserved communities to high-speed internet.

It’s one of many government and private-sector initiatives that have gained urgency since the pandemic began, as Canadians became more dependent on internet service for applications ranging from e-learning to daily business operations.

Ottawa says the additional money will keep it on track to have high-speed broadband in 98 per cent of the country by 2026, and 100 per cent by 2030.

Money spent on high-speed communications will be good for a recovering economy, said Pedro Antunes, chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada, a non-partisan think-tank.

The latest data from Statistics Canada says there were about five million people working from home during the pandemic, up from about two million prior to that, Antunes said in an interview.

“That’s a quarter or so of the workforce,” he added. “And I think a fair number of those people are going to continue to work from home, at least in some part-time way.”

Improved connections to high-speed broadband and mobile communications will add to the productive capacity of the economy overall, especially as it reaches beyond Canada’s cities, Antunes said.

He said there’s been a “real issue” with economic growth outside major urban centres and the improved connectivity “is something that can help stimulate that.”

The Universal Broadband Fund was initially mentioned in the 2019 budget, though specifics were not available until last November’s fiscal update.

The $1-billion top-up to the broadband fund announced today is in addition to $1.75 billion promised to the fund by the federal government’s November fiscal update.

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COVID-19: What you need to know for April 19

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Provincewide

  • Per today’s government report, there are 4,447 new cases in Ontario, for a total of 421,442 since the pandemic began; 2,202 people are in hospital, 755 of them in intensive care, and 516 on ventilators. To date, 7,735 people have died.
  • According to data from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, there are 40 outbreaks in long-term-care facilities, 36 confirmed active cases of positive residents, and 127 confirmed active cases of positive staff. To date, there have been 3,755 confirmed resident deaths and 11 confirmed staff deaths.
  • Per the government’s report on Ontario’s vaccination program, as of 7 p.m. yesterday, Ontario has administered 66,897 new doses of COVID-19 vaccines, for a total of 3,904,778 since December 2020. 3,212,768 people have received only one dose, and 346,005 people have received both doses.

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Federal budget 2021 highlights: Child care, recovery benefits, OAS increases – everything you need to know

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The federal government’s first budget in more than two years certainly looks the part: At 739 pages, it is a hefty document chock full of billions in new spending.

Those funds will be spread among a number of key groups – students, seniors, parents and small-business owners, to name a few – as Ottawa looks to bolster Canada’s recovery from COVID-19 but also plan for life beyond the pandemic.

To that end, the deficit is projected to hit $354.2-billion in the 2020-21 fiscal year, which just ended – better than expected about five months ago, given the economy’s resilience over the winter months. It is estimated to fall to $154.7-billion this fiscal year, before dropping further in the years to come as pandemic spending recedes from view.

Here are some of the highlights from Monday’s budget.

The budget outlines tens of billions of dollars in federal subsidies for a national child-care program, a promise the Liberal Party has made in some form since the early 1990s. Child-care supports became a point of national debate during pandemic lockdowns as parents with young children struggled to juggle work and family responsibilities.

In total, the government proposes spending as much as $30-billion over the next five years, and $8.3-billion each year after that, to bring child-care fees down to a $10-a-day average by 2026. The proposal, which requires negotiation with the provinces and territories, would split subsidies evenly with those governments and targets a 50-per-cent reduction in average child-care fees by the end of 2022.

The federal program is largely modelled on Quebec’s subsidized child-care system, implemented in the 1990s in an effort to increase women’s access to the labour market. Since then, labour participation rates for women aged 25 to 54 in the province have grown to exceed the national average by four percentage points.

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