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Alberta

7 Exciting Excursions To Take in Canada

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As we await the lifting of lockdowns, let’s dream a bit about travel.

7 Exciting Excursions To Take in Canada

Whether you live in Canada or plan to visit from another country, there are plenty of fascinating things to see and do. Canada is the second-largest country in the world in total area, so it would probably be impossible to see every part of it in a single lifetime. Therefore, here are some of the most worthwhile things to see and do across the breadth of this beautiful and welcoming country.

1. Vancouver

Rocks on the beach at sunset on the coast of Vancouver, BC

Vancouver is located on the West Coast of Canada. It is accessible by water via all inclusive cruises and by train, bus, and automobile as well. Vancouver offers multiple opportunities for fun excursions. You can tour the Canadian Rockies, take the Sea to Sky Gondola to Whistler for some skiing, or go whale watching from the southern end of Vancouver Island.

2. Jasper National Park

Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park

In Alberta, you can find one of the best outdoor attractions in Canada: Jasper National Park. Covering 4,200 square miles, or 11,000 square kilometers, it is home to mountains, waterfalls, lakes, and springs. Points of particular interest in Jasper National Park include the Columbia Icefield glaciers and Maligne Canyon, which becomes an otherworldly realm of frozen waterfalls and ice caves with cold temperatures.

3. Churchill

Churchill is a small community located on the banks of Hudson Bay in northern Manitoba. It is known as the polar bear capital of the world, and you can indeed see polar bears there during their annual migration. However, Churchill also offers opportunities to see other natural wonders. In the summer, you can see beluga whales as they travel to their calving grounds in the estuary of the Churchill River.

Because Churchill is so close to the North Pole, winter nights get very long. This combined with a lack of light pollution makes it a good place to observe the aurora borealis, which appears when solar activity is high. Bear in mind, however, that there is no way to guarantee that the northern lights will be visible during your visit.

4. Niagara Falls

the famous Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is located on the border between Canada and the United States. It is a short distance away from the city of Toronto in the Canadian province of Ontario. Though one of the most famous waterfalls in the world, Niagara is poorly understood by many. Most people do not know that it actually consists of three different waterfalls. You can see them all from the best possible vantage points by booking a tour.

5. Quebec

Once a French colony, Quebec is the main francophone center of Canada. The French influence is still very strong in Quebecois language, culture, and architecture, so a trip to Quebec is a little like taking a mini-European vacation without going too far from home. You can see majestic waterfalls and quaint little villages in the idyllic Quebec countryside, or you can experience the cosmopolitan excitement of Montreal, its biggest city. Points of interest include the Old Port of Montreal via the Place Jacque Cartier and Mont-Royal Park, one of the largest greenspaces in the city.

6. Ottawa

Ottawa is the capital city of Canada but tends to get outshone by larger and more popular cities, such as Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. This may be to your advantage if you’d like to avoid crowds of other tourists on your excursion. Because Ottawa is the seat of Canadian government, you can visit the Royal Canadian Mint and see Parliament Hill during your visit. There are also boat tours and bus tours of the city available.

7. Maritimes

The Maritime Provinces are located on Canada’s east coast, along the Atlantic Ocean. There are four maritime provinces altogether: Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador (which coincidentally lends its names to two different breeds of dog), Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick. Each has something unique to offer, from the red rock cliffs and literary heritage of Prince Edward Island to the Cape Breton Highlands of Nova Scotia to whale watching in New Brunswick’s Bay of Fundy to the world’s largest fossil park in Newfoundland and Labrador.

There are many opportunities to take guided tours of notable Canadian locations. You can also explore on your own.

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Alberta

Alberta inquiry finds no wrongdoing in anti-oilsands campaign despite foreign funds

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EDMONTON — Canadian environmental groups did nothing wrong when they accepted foreign funding for campaigns opposing oilsands development, a public inquiry has reported.

In his much-delayed report released Thursday, Steve Allan, commissioner of the Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns, says the groups were exercising their rights to free speech.

“I have not found any suggestions of wrongdoing on the part of any individual or organization,” Allan writes. 

“No individual or organization, in my view, has done anything illegal. Indeed, they have exercised their rights of free speech.”

Allan also says the campaigns have not spread misinformation.

While he finds that at least $1.28 billion has flowed into Canadian environmental charities from the U.S. between 2003 and 2019, only a small portion of that has been directed against the oilsands. Auditors Deloitte Forensic Inc. estimate that money at between $37.5 million and $58.9 million over that period. That averages to $3.5 million a year at most.

Alberta’s United Conservative government funds its so-called “war room,” an arm’s-length agency instituted to counter environmental groups, at up to $30 million a year.

The report also finds that what it calls conservative/market-oriented charities that worked in support of the oilsands received at least $26.7 million from foreign sources. 

Allan recommends a series of reforms to improve transparency in the charitable sector. He says charities should be subject to the same standards of disclosure as private corporations. 

He also calls for an industry-led campaign to rebrand Canadian energy.

“Industry associations, governments, and the industry itself have failed to counter (environmental groups’) efforts, such that the public has not had ready access to complete, reliable and balanced information,” Allan writes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2021

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

PropTech is making it easier to buy or sell a house online

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CALGARY — Kim and Dave Bailey knew they wanted to build their new home on a lot that would accommodate a three-car garage.

But finding the right location meant repeatedly taking time out of their day to visit sales offices, only to find out what they wanted wasn’t even a possibility.

“We must have visited seven or eight homebuilders in the community,” said Dave. “We’d have a conversation and then ask, ‘can you accommodate a three-car garage?’ They’d say ‘nope,” and so it was like, ‘OK, I guess we wasted our time.’ “

After one too many unsatisfying experiences, the Baileys stumbled upon Ownly, an online shopping tool for the new home market launched last year by a pair of Calgary entrepreneurs and now available on several Calgary homebuilder websites. Using Ownly, the couple were able to browse prospective communities and floor plans and figure out which home designs fit on which lots.

While the advent of e-commerce and mobile technology long ago changed the way Canadians shop for everything from clothing to vacations to food, the real estate industry has been slower to embrace digital innovation. For most people, buying a house remains a cumbersome, time-consuming process that involves multiple in-person visits with agents, lawyers and bankers.

But that’s beginning to change, with a growing number of homebuilders, real estate brokerages and financial institutions offering digital solutions aimed at modernizing the buying and selling process.

The Baileys also used Ownly to play around with different upgrade packages and get a ballpark price quote. By the time they actually set foot in the sales office of the builder from whom they ultimately bought their Calgary dream home, they knew exactly what they wanted and had a good sense of what it was going to cost.

“Building a new home is a huge financial decision,” said Kim. “So being able to look at everything before you go out, and being able to tell if this is even feasible for you, it reduces some of that disappointment.”

Abdullah Snobar, executive director of The DMZ business incubator at Ryerson University, says the economy is undergoing a major transformation as people become increasingly digitally savvy.

“Startups are definitely thriving in this space and we’re beginning to see the industry really find its footing around it,” he said.

Most homebuyers are familiar with commonplace digital real estate tools like web-based listings, virtual tours and online mortgage calculators. But tech innovators are now partnering with real estate companies to offer everything from digital sales offices to artificial-intelligence enabled search tools to virtual-reality-led property tours.

Advocates say taking advantage of PropTech — a term that refers to the use of technology in the real estate space — can offer a host of benefits to buyers and sellers. Whether it’s the minimizing of face-to-face contact during the COVID-19 pandemic, or the convenience of being able to shop on your own schedule, the use of digital solutions can remove some of the headaches from a real estate search.

The use of PropTech can also be a money-saver. Because the Baileys weren’t walking blindly into the sales office, they felt more confident about their ability to choose the model and upgrades that worked within their budget.

“Our salesperson didn’t have to upsell us at all. Anything that we upgraded came directly from us, not from them,” Kim said.

While PropTech has made some significant strides when it comes to disrupting the traditional real estate market, experts say it’s not yet possible in Canada to complete all the steps in the home-buying process — from offer to financing to closure of the deal — online.

But Fred Cassano, partner and national real estate tax leader with PwC Canada, said a number of PropTech companies will likely offer such tools in the near future.

“I think we’re much closer than people realize to being able to complete the entire process online,” Cassano said. “I don’t think we’re too far away from seeing that, which is transacting digitally from start to finish.”

In fact, Ownly says that within the next year, it hopes to expand its own platform to provide a complete end-to-end new home-buying service online.

Melanie Gowans, general manager of sales and marketing at Calgary’s Shane Homes — one of the builders that has been using the Ownly tool — said her company is ready for it.

“We would never replace the service we’re offering now. There are going to people who aren’t comfortable doing the whole sale online. But I want to make it available to those who are comfortable,” Gowans said.

“We (the home building industry) are one of the last industries to have everything online,” she added. “But if you think about back when you first started being able to buy clothes online, that seemed really weird too . . . So I think we are getting there, and we’re only going to get better at it.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2021.

Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press

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