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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    There’s an old saying, “flaunt it, if you’ve got it.” But that’s not always the case with Europe’s nude beaches. Here, they aren’t just about the buffed and the beautiful. German grandpas with Pillsbury Doughboy-like bodies stroll proudly along the shoreline without pause, while extended Greek families sip strong coffee stretched out on lounge chairs dressed in little else other than sunglasses.

    So what nations are most likely to do the full monty during their beach vacations? In a survey conducted by Harris Interactive of 21 countries, Germany take the top spot, while Spain and India grab second place. Tying for third were Sweden, Denmark, Mexico, and the Netherlands. Bringing up the rear (so to speak), are the United Kingdom and United States.

    If you want to travel really light and skip packing swimsuits or cover ups, where should you go for a European beach vacation? The country that reigns supreme when it comes to clothing-optional beaches is Denmark, where most of its beaches are welcoming of those who have adopted a nudist – oh, excuse us – “naturist” lifestyle. It’s a tradition more than a century old.

    No matter which nude beaches you may find yourself at – whether on purpose or happenstance – don’t behave like an uptight North American. That means no gawking, pointing, posting photos of nudies on Instagram, giggling, or flirting. In Europe, being nude at a beach means I want to feel comfortable and free, not I want to get it on with anyone with a pulse and a heartbeat.

    Go on uncrate your sun-starved flesh and enjoy of Europe’s finest nude beaches. Starting with…

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    Dominic Monaghan wants people to stop worrying about him.

    He's certainly not in any danger of running out of interesting places to visit or animals to see for his OLN show "Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan." Because even after two seasons, the actor-turned-nature-show-host's travel wish list is constantly growing. Monaghan doesn't have a death wish either, for anyone concerned he might get himself hurt -- or worse -- by wrangling the show's various dangerous critters or putting himself in the firing range of deadly spitting cobras (like Monaghan does in the "Wild Things" Season 2 premiere).

    Still, while listening to fans' travel recommendations, Monaghan is continually having to reassure them that he's not "mental." He just wants to keep taking the show to more interesting, exciting places, while continuing to satisfy his lifelong curiosity with the natural world around him.

    So, with Season 2 of "Wild Things" premiering on OLN on March 25, HuffPost TV Canada sat down with Monaghan to talk about all the amazing places and animals he's seen so far, getting to return to the Shire with a "Lord of the Rings" co-star this season, and what's still left on his seemingly never-ending bucket list.

    HuffPost TV Canada: So I got to see the Season 2 premiere with the Kenyan giant spitting cobra. There were some pretty intense moments in there. I was cringing for you...
    Dominic Monaghan: [Laughs] Oh, nice!

    Who finds this show harder to watch when you're doing something potentially dangerous--- like encouraging a giant cobra to spit venom at your face -- your fellow producers or your family?
    I think the producers are just happy that we're getting the footage. I think probably my family is the most nervous about it, but they know me well enough by now. They know I'm always going to do it, so it's not as scary as if it would be a new idea to them. It's not a new idea. I've been doing it for a long time.

    What was your approach to this season? Were you looking to up the ante and take things further, or just continue exploring?
    We definitely made the show bigger, bolder, brasher. The animals are more dangerous, the travel's more expansive. The whole season is just "Wild Things" with the accelerator pedal pushed down a little bit more. My thing for this year is about curiosity, about trying to entice a sense of curiosity out of people. I wanted people to be curious about life, about everything, about travel, about food, about people, about places, about animals. This season there's a big stance about being curious and about how curiosity can really dictate how you live your life.

    Was there anything you wanted to do on Season 1 that you couldn't for whatever reason that you got to do this year?
    Yeah, there were a few places that we went to and a few animals that we worked with that I really wanted to work with in Season 1 and we just didn't have the time, and we didn't really have the knowledge and we didn't have the experience, and people were a little reticent to get us into the firing lane like that. But I really wanted to go to Japan and we did that this year. I wanted to go to Thailand and we did that this year. I wanted to go to New Zealand, we did that this year. So we started to tick off a lot of things on the list. Once they knew that we could all do it, then they started saying, OK, well what do we want to do?

    What was it like going back to New Zealand?
    It was great. I'd been there two or three times since making the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. But I went with Billy Boyd and he hadn't been back since we did "The Lord of the Rings" together. So that was kind of emotional for the two of us, and we just had a great time. I think we reverted back to who we were ... f**king 15 years ago. We were laughing and joking and behaving like hobbits again, so it was a great experience and quite emotional and a lot of fun.

    Were there any places or animals that you remembered from filming "The Lord of the Rings" that you knew you had to go back and check out for the show?
    I wanted to go to Waitomo. There's these caves in Waitomo that have these glowworms ... the whole ceiling glows like the night sky, and I wanted to take Billy there because he hadn't seen it the first time. And I had seen it and I loved it, and I wanted to show him that. And we wanted to go back to The Shire, which is obviously important for us, and we went to Wellington, where we were based out of and walked past Billy's house, walked past my house. Talked about that, had a glass of wine together. It was probably the most reflective of the episodes, but also probably the funniest, because Billy's in it and he's hilarious.

    Being able to balance safely handling a dangerous animal while also talking to the camera at the same time isn't exactly a normal skill set. How long did it take for you to develop that, and are you even more comfortable with it now after having another season under your belt?
    I think probably like halfway through Season 1, I thought I was in a headspace where I could handle most things and I could pick up on communications between me and a wild animal. You always have to take each individual animal on its own merits, you can't say, "Oh it's a cobra, so it's going to act like this." You have to say, "What is this cobra's attitude? How does it feel about humans, how does it feel about being held?" Most dangerous animals don't like being held, because they think they're in danger and then they're going to show you that they're dangerous.

    So I think it took me half a season to get there, and you're always learning, you're always picking up on stuff and you're always subject to making mistakes. These type of shows really pop when someone gets hurt, when someone gets bitten, when someone gets close to being hurt. So we do walk that line a little bit, but safety is paramount for us, and for the animals on the show. And if we feel like we've pushed the limits, then we'll step away.

    Is that disturbing to you at all that the more dangerous things get for you, the better it is for TV? It's kind of like how some people watch NASCAR for the crashes.
    Well, I don't have a death wish. I'm not going to start falling out of airplanes without parachutes on. There's a level of sacrifice in terms of me working with animals that I'll do, but I'm not going to start grabbing lions by their tails and stuff like that, I'm not stupid. I'm OK with it, it's my passion. I'd much rather get hurt doing something I'm passionate about than get hit by a bus crossing the street going to McDonald's.

    It seems like on a show like this you have to constantly keep your eyes open, not just for the safety aspect, but also in case you happen to spot something cool or unexpected. What's been the best happy accident that you've had on the show so far?
    Well, we went to Japan to look for the Japanese giant salamander, which is as big as my calf. But what we also found is a hybrid, which is a Chinese giant salamander that mates with a Japanese giant salamander, and that thing was as big as a f**king Labrador. We didn't expect to see that at all, and we got a chance to work with it. So that was a standout moment in terms of like, "Whoa, we came to look for one thing and then there's this crazy other monster thing."

    We saw a few different types of bats that we didn't expect to see in Australia, one that was relatively rare that we found in a cave. I don't know, for me, it's those moments where you go looking for something else and then you get wowed by other creatures. I didn't know that I was going to get a chance to work with a tuatara in New Zealand, which is a type of reptile that looks just like a lizard but it's not a lizard, and I got a chance to hold one and work with one. And that was kind of a dream moment for me; they're a very, very peculiar, strange animal. They can live til over 100, they live in very cold environments, they have a third eye. Very intelligent, smart little creatures.

    Do you find now that the show's been around for a season that people are constantly coming up to you to suggest new ideas for places and animals for you to check out?
    Yeah, yeah. [Laughs] You get that a lot. Friends or people on the street saying, "Oh, you've got to go do tigers in India," or you've got to go do this and that, and you're like, "Oh, yeah, that's great." What you don't want to say to them is we spend months researching these animals and these places, and if you've suggested it, I'm sure we've researched it and worked out that we can or can't do it. So yeah, people get excited, they want to contribute. On Twitter all the time, people are like, "You should come to my hometown, we have this and we have that," and "Come to this country and I'll take you out, and we'll go to these places." I love that enthusiasm, it's great.

    What's it been like for you watching the public reaction to this show? Because you're kind of putting yourself out there a lot more than when you're playing a fictional character on a TV series or in a movie.
    The main reaction on the street is like, "You're mental." Which obviously I try to explain why I'm not mental and why it doesn't feel mental to me. I don't want people to think that I'm crazy or that I'm doing something stupid. So I try to break those myths a little bit, but most people are just like, "You're crazy, don't die." And I'm like, "Well, thanks..." There's a line that I say in Season 1 of "Wild Things," which is true: I say, "I will avoid death at all costs," and I will. I'll do everything that I can to not die. I don't have a death wish, I'm not interested in dying. I'm just not scared of it, it doesn't scare me.

    Have you always been like that? Or is that something that's developed as you've gotten older?
    Not scared of death?

    Well, not being intimidated by putting yourself in these types of situations.
    I don't know. I wasn't the brave kid jumping off bridges and stuff like that when I was a kid, the daredevil or anything like that. I was more the class clown. But I was the guy that would take the bee or the wasp or the spider out of the classroom or help people out if there was an animal on them. I was always good like that, animals never bothered me. And I think as I became an adult, I just thought, you get one opportunity. I get one opportunity to be me. Maybe I'll come back and get an opportunity to be something else, but I only get one opportunity to be me. And I'm going to go do it.

    So is there anything or anywhere still left on your list for a potential Season 3?
    There's thousands of places. I want to go to Galapagos and tell the story of Darwin, how he got to a headspace where he started thinking about evolution and "Origin of Species." I want to go to Christmas Island, where they have tens of millions of crabs overtake a tiny little island in the middle of the ocean. I'd love to go the Cook Islands, I want to go to Antarctica, I want to go the South Pole. I want to go to Brazil again, I want to go to Argentina, Peru, Greece, Spain. We can tell thousands more stories in Australia; it's such an amazing place to go to for the animals that we work with. Cambodia. I'd love to go to places like Jordan and Lebanon and Israel. There's a lot of places, territories that we've not hit yet, and stories that we've not told. One of my producers said to me a while ago, "Do you ever think that you'll run out of ideas?" And I said, "No, because we'll never run out of animals." There's always going to be an animal's story to tell.

    Season 2 of "Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan" premieres Tuesday, March 25 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, 7 p.m. MT, 8 p.m. CT on OLN in Canada, and on BBC America in the U.S.

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    Vancouver Specials used to be the ugly stepsister of the city’s housing stock, snubbed because of its working class roots and boxy utilitarian design. But the distinctive houses have blossomed into a hot Cinderella with plenty of potential.

    The Vancouver Special refers to about 10,000 homes built from roughly 1965 to 1984, typically with low-pitched roofs, metal railing balconies across the front, brick or stone finishes on the ground floor, and stucco on the second level. Despite its name, the style is found not only in Vancouver, but also all over the suburbs.

    “They’re identifiably Vancouver. It’s the only structure, the only building style that we developed locally and it’s ours,” explained realtor Sebastian Albrecht. He not only specializes in selling these homes — he also lives in one.

    Albrecht has spent countless hours walking around taking photos and cataloging all of the Vancouver Specials that he sees into a database.

    “It’s not just about business, it’s a personal interest,” Albrecht told The Huffington Post B.C. “ Mainly because no one else is doing it. As with many things, if you don’t make note of them they disappear.”

    Thousands of Vancouver Specials were mass produced because they didn’t cost much to build and maximized the 33-foot lot. Most of them offer about 2,000 to 2,800 sq. ft. of living area — an unbelievable amount of adaptable space for today’s families and investors.

    Realtor Rob Zwick and his wife, Sharon, spent just seven weeks modernizing their 2,500-sq. ft. Vancouver Special. He blogged about the renovations, documenting their home's transformation from a dated, shag-carpeted eyesore into a stunning, bright, open space.

    Story continues after slideshow:

    “Perhaps the biggest draw was that these homes were built in an era when they were built really well and simply," Zwick told "We ended up gutting the entire house, and took two major walls out on the upper floor."

    The couple also embraced another Vancouver Special advantage: the lower half of their home is a secondary suite that they rent out.

    The open design, which was popular with the large extended families of immigrants, makes it easy to section off.

    In fact, the Vancouver Special is almost too adaptable. Albrecht has been working with a designer to renovate his own home and they have found there to be an overload of possibilities.

    “[The designer] has been talking about how hard it is because they are so many options," Albrecht said. "They’re essentially an open box; whereas say, an old Victorian home or something, you’re much more limited by what you can do in that space, so it’s almost easier to plan.”

    Albrecht is sponsoring next month’s Vancouver Special House Tour, organized by the Vancouver Heritage Foundation. Participants get to step into five stunning Vancouver Specials in which “their adaptable floor plan" has been taken "to new heights.”

    The tour has exploded in popularity, especially since it featured the Lakewood Residence, a renovated Vancouver Special that won the 2005 Lieutenant-Governor of B.C. Innovation Award for Architecture.

    In the ‘80s, the City of Vancouver changed single-family zoning rules to curb the creation of Vancouver Specials. To get that kind of square footage today would require a basement which isn't as attractive or flexible, Albrecht said.

    In 2012, a Vancouver Special that took seven months to upgrade, including the addition of a yoga room, went on the market for $1.379 million.

    Another updated 3,400 sq. ft. Special in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood sold in 2013 after being listed at $2.36 million.

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    (Relaxnews) - When it comes to environmentally friendly tourism, certain locales come to mind immediately. Vietnam, Kenya, Cameroon... the classics. But as the ecotourism movement gains momentum, additional destinations are joining the roster. Here is a roundup of a few of the rising stars of the ecotourism scene.

    dubai nature reserve
    Notwithstanding its reputation for opulence and excess, the emirate was recommended by National Geographic as an emerging ecotourism destination. Visitors interested in sustainable tourism can head to Dubai's nature reserve or take a day trip into the desert with indigenous guides.

    Kerala, India
    kerala india tourism
    A growing number of ecotourists are heading to this state in southwest India to take in its dozens of national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, biosphere reserves and other protected areas. "God's own country" is the slogan of this region, which is investing in responsible tourism as a sustainable and responsible form of economic development.

    bhutan tourism
    In this South Asian nation, respect for local customs and for nature has been established by the government as a matter of national importance. The majority of ecotourism opportunities in Bhutan fall within the luxury travel category and are targeted at high-end clients. And for good reason: each visitor must pay a daily tax of $250, which goes directly towards the preservation of the landlocked country, which is located between India and China, to the east of the Himalayas.

    myanmar tourism
    Little by little, the country is opening up to international tourism, offering exceptional opportunities for environmentally conscious tourists looking to interact with local populations. On a hike departing from Kengtung, within the famed Golden Triangle, tourists can come into contact with villagers from the Palaung, Akha, Lahu, Lisu and Khun tribes.

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    With confirmation from Malaysian officials that Flight MH370 went down in the southern Indian Ocean, searchers with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) are concentrating their efforts closer to land than before, according to a map the authority provided.

    AMSA's search area on Monday showed that personnel looked in an area about 1,970 kilometres southwest of Perth, which is closer than earlier estimates that put searches about 3,000 kilometres from the continent.

    Searchers aboard the Royal Australian Air Force P3 Orion located two objects in the search area at about 2:45 p.m. local time on Monday. One was grey or green with a circular shape, the other was orange and rectangular.

    mh370 search

    These objects were separate from the ones spotted by the Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 satellite on Saturday, which may have come from the plane that disappeared on March 8.

    A US Navy P8 Poseidon aircraft on Monday tried to locate the objects spotted by the Chinese satellite but was not able to do so, AMSA said in a news release.

    AMSA called off a search early Tuesday local time due to weather that made it unsafe for air and sea area activities, but personnel aboard the Australian Navy ship HMAS Success plan to return to the site when conditions improve.

    mh370 search

    AMSA began coordinating searches in the Indian Ocean on March 17. You can find all the latest updates on the search on the authority's website.

    Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak delivered the news Monday that Flight MH370's likely ended in the Indian Ocean.

    Relatives in Beijing grieved upon hearing the news, after an agonizing wait to learn what happened to their loved ones.

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    OTTAWA - Canada's largest, most-visited museum is relaunching a fundraising campaign to capitalize on historic anniversaries over the next few years.

    But the Canadian Museum of History has set the bar very low — just $10,000 to be raised over each of the next two years, an apparent recognition that ordinary Canadians aren't that interested in bailing out hard-pressed public institutions.

    The sprawling structure — across the Ottawa River from the Parliament Buildings — has until recently been known as the Museum of Civilization.

    The Conservative government in 2012 announced the name change, which took effect just before a series of anniversaries, such as the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War later this year and the 150th birthday of Canada in 2017.

    The museum recently issued a tender to find a firm to run its annual giving campaign, which is currently based on a direct-mail appeal to donors.

    The tender documents show that in the last three years, the museum — which welcomes more than a million visitors a year — has found just 530 such donors.

    And officials foresee only tiny annual increments in donations, to just $20,000 by 2017, even with a professional firm running the campaign.

    The Canadian War Museum is also under the corporate wing of the history museum. Donations there are more robust, with 8,200 donors in the last three years and a goal of $400,000 to be raised in the next year, according to the tender documents.

    But officials also note the average age of so-called "annual giving" donors — the repeat givers — is 78 years, and the program will have to reach a new generation in their 40s, 50s and 60s.

    The two museums together had expenses of about $92 million in 2012-2013.

    The history museum — an architectural gem in a picturesque setting, opened in 1989 — is the capital's biggest tourist draw, with family-friendly exhibits and a popular IMAX theatre.

    But it is also struggling financially. The history and war museums together ran up a $3-million deficit in 2012-2013 because of the Conservative government's deficit-cutting, which forced them to absorb payroll increases and other rising costs. The maintenance bill is also rising.

    The government has provided a one-time, $25-million cash injection over four years to transform two of the history museum's galleries to better reflect its narrower mandate of presenting Canada's past.

    In the meantime, annual attendance has dropped slightly to below 1.2 million, eating into ticket revenue and increasing the pressure to tap donors.

    The two museums missed their 2012-2013 donation targets — which include corporations and individuals — by about $300,000.

    "Over the past several years we have done direct mail appeals several times for the Canadian Museum of History, trying different lists, stories and timing but always with poor results," says the tender, which is offering a two-year term renewable for a third year.

    "As such our donor base at the Museum of History remains small. ... The Museum's leadership feels strongly that annual giving fundraising is necessary for the Museum of History. We simply need to find the right strategies that match the giving behaviours of our most likely donors."

    The more successful war museum fundraising relies on small amounts, with the average gift of $65 for its direct-mail campaign in the last year.

    A spokeswoman for the history museum says the so-called History Campaign fundraising will target corporations and foundations for the bulk of the $5 million it plans to raise by 2017, to purchase new artifacts and help refashion the exhibit halls.

    Patricia Lynch also defended the low targets for individual donations, saying the history museum is coming later to the fundraising game than its sister institution.

    "It's two very different campaigns," she said. "The war museum has quite an established history now of very successful donor campaigns ... whereas this History Campaign is just starting out."

    The history museum's vice-president of corporate affairs, Chantal Schryer, said the institution has developed a "robust fundraising plan," of which the planned giving campaign outlined in the tender is only one aspect, to be complemented by major gifts and sponsorships.

    "The Canadian War Museum's annual giving campaign is a long-established fundraising activity that has seen dramatic increases since the museum opened at its new location in 2005," Schryer said in a statement.

    "As the new Canadian Museum of History takes shape, we expect to generate the same enthusiasm from Canadians to support its programs and activities."

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    MONTREAL - Air Canada is trying to further cut costs by expanding its low-cost subsidiary Rouge in Western Canada and using it to replace its regular service on some U.S. routes from Vancouver and Calgary.

    Air Canada (TSX:AC.B) said Tuesday that Rouge will begin daily flights at the end of April to Las Vegas from Calgary and Vancouver.

    It will be followed with service to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Anchorage, Alaska, a key port for cruise ships. Seasonal service from Vancouver and Calgary to Phoenix will begin next December.

    Air Canada chief commercial officer Ben Smith said the expansion of Rouge and the addition of new aircraft are a "key element of our strategy for sustainable, profitable growth at both airlines."

    "Air Canada Rouge is best suited to compete more cost effectively in these markets where there is both a high leisure travel demand and low-cost competition," he stated in a news release.

    The airline is using Rouge to lower costs by filling planes with more passengers and paying workers less than on the main network.

    Smith said it may add other destinations to Rouge as Air Canada receives delivery of new airplanes allowing its existing Airbus A319s and Boeing 767s to be transferred to the low-cost subsidiary.

    Air Canada also said Rouge will also take over service between Toronto and San Diego and Phoenix.

    The Montreal-based airline is expecting to cut $100 million in costs — a 15 per cent reduction in costs per available seat mile — over five years by adding new Boeing 777s, 787 Dreamliners and expanding Rouge.

    With 18 per cent more seats, lower wages, more flexible work rules and lower overhead, Rouge's narrowbody fleet is expected to operate 21 per cent cheaper than the same airplanes on the main network. The advantage gained with the widebody 767s is even larger with a 25 per cent increase in seating to 264 passengers that lowers costs per available seat mile by 29 per cent.

    Analyst David Tyerman of Canaccord Genuity said the expansion of Rouge in Western Canada is consistent with Air Canada's previously announced plans and efforts in Eastern Canada.

    By increasing capacity through the addition of more seats, the analyst said the switch of routes to Rouge makes the airline more competitive.

    "They're not targeting other airlines or other vendors, they're after the leisure market which WestJet happens to play in, as does Transat and everyone else," he said in an interview.

    Tyerman said Rouge could eventually provide service to leisure destinations in Europe or Asia if demand warrants.

    "There will be more to come because the expansion of Rouge in terms of the number of planes in it will continue next year, into 2016," he added.

    Launched last July, Rouge plans to operate 54 routes, including service to Europe from Montreal and Toronto.

    Air Canada Rouge has hired hundreds of flight attendants ahead of its Western expansion. Its workforce is expected to reach 650 by the end of the year when its fleet nearly doubles to 33 planes.

    Follow @RossMarowits on Twitter

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    Bookings at Helena Rizzo’s Sao Paulo restaurant Mani are about to fill up now that the Brazilian has been named the best female chef in the world.

    After being named the best female chef in Latin America last year, Rizzo was promoted to the ranking of world’s best female chef 2014 in an announcement made Tuesday, for producing foods that “excite the toughest critics,” the overriding criteria for snagging the lofty title.

    It’s an impressive achievement for Rizzo, a trained architect and former model, given that the restaurant she helms with her chef-husband Daniel Redondo opened only eight years ago.

    Dishes at Mani are described as a harmonious amalgam of Brazilian culinary traditions and contemporary innovation.

    Native ingredients like Pupunha heart of palms, for instance, are served in a dish of thin noodles, with Parmesan sauce and white truffle oil, while slow-cooked lamb is served with baked roots, Brazil nuts and manioc flour, a native root vegetable.

    “Their clever cooking, respectful of traditional Brazilian culinary practices and ingredients, is married with modern technique and sprinkled with Spanish influence,” say organizers of the award.

    Rizzo joins an exclusive sorority of chef colleagues with her newly bestowed title, including triple Michelin-starred chefs Anne-Sophie Pic of France and Nadia Santini of Italy.

    After learning of her win, Rizzo downplayed her award, saying it’s a “difficult judgment to make.”

    “Each one of us can be the best in a particular situation, at a given time for a certain person. Of course, I'm very happy and honoured to receive this award and I’m grateful for it,” she said in a statement.

    “... I hope that this award makes the gastronomic world open its eyes to the work of female cooks and to the wonderful kitchens we have in Brazil."

    Meanwhile, since its creation in 2011, the Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef award has raised a few eyebrows within and outside of the food community, with critics questioning the need to separate female chefs from their male counterparts.

    Does it imply that women need their own special category? That they’re not considered on par with their male counterparts?

    The subject grew even more inflamed last year with the publication of a special Time magazine report entitled “Gods of Food,” an editorial package that drew much criticism for being conspicuously absent of any ‘goddesses.’

    For their part, organizers of Veuve Clicquot’s Best Female Chef Award say the award was created to shine the spotlight on female chefs and help close the gender gap.

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    kitimat hunters langegger

    Mike Langegger recalls the autumn moment two years ago when he, his son Adam, and daughter Hannah spotted a moose a stone’s throw away in a valley just outside Kitimat in northwest B.C.

    The rutting beast could easily have charged at the family with its dangerous antlers. But Langegger coaxed the bull to come closer: "I did a series of cow calls, and it came out of the willow patch about 25 to 40 yards away."

    Hannah, 13 at the time, aimed one of the family’s many rifles. With her pulse racing, and eye on the scope, she fired a single shot. The moose fell. They approached the creature excitedly, but with mixed feelings too.

    “[We] took the animal’s life, [so] there’s some remorse there. But the animal also made it’s way to our dinner table.

    "It was an incredible family moment," said the father last week. But such experiences could be threatened by the Northern Gateway pipeline, said Langegger.

    The industrial power engineer, who is a well-known hunter in area, has long spoken out against the project. Like many citizens who will soon vote in an April 12 Kitimat plebiscite regarding the $6.5 billion pipeline, he's done a lot of research into Enbridge.

    He's uncovered more than a dozen examples of the company's oil pipeline spills in the last decade, and worries that future spills could be much worse in northern B.C. — and the impacts could potentially "wipe out" wild game and fish.

    “For those of us that call coastal British Columbia home, the existing environment, fish, wildlife, and associated values are the foundation of who we are,” he told the Joint Review Panel in 2012.

    “It is those values that the Northern Gateway Project ultimately threatens to extinguish,” said Langegger, to the applause of many in the hearing room.

    He expects "hundreds" of hunters like him will vote against the oil sands pipeline. But what Langegger did not know until a recent conversation with the Vancouver Observer was just how close the proposed pipeline is to an area he hunts.

    "That pipeline, according to that map, would come within 700 metres of where that moose was shot," reacted Langegger.

    He was shown a more detailed Enbridge consultant’s map of the pipeline’s route near Kitimat than he had seen before. An additional Google Earth map — provided by Living Ocean — also helped him visualize how close the pipeline comes to where the moose was downed.

    The pipeline crosses two major rivers north of Kitimat.

    “If you had an oil spill on the Big Wedeene or Little Wedeene for example — those are both salmon bearing streams — very, very game-rich habitats," he said, pointing out that oil would end up in the Kitimat River, down into the estuary, and into the ocean.

    "You’d have a number of fur-bearing species, birds of prey, and wildlife directly impacted… mink, martens, fisher, otters... [as well as] beaver, wolverines, wolves, and the bear population."

    “If you impact the salmon — you impact all these species, because it’s a pinnacle part of the food chain,” he said.

    Enbridge was invited to comment for this story, but the company did not respond to our requests.

    Economic benefits

    The company is now blanketing the region's media with advertisements ("Students need schools. Schools needs students. A pipeline can help.") and editorials in advance of the April Kitimat vote. Its messages push the pipeline as good for jobs and government coffers.

    After construction, the pipeline would employ 58 people directly, and 130 in Kitimat harbour and emergency response staff, according to JRP records.

    Langegger got a call from Northern Gateway staff asking him how he intends to vote. He was appalled, and immediately wrote a complaint letter to the mayor.

    Of chief concern to many is the potential for a pipeline spill, perhaps not right away, but in the years and decades ahead.

    The Enbridge pipeline that burst oil into the Kalamazoo River in 2010 was 40 years old. The disaster was the largest and costliest land oil spill in U.S. history.

    Enbridge's executive vice president Janet Holder said Kalamazoo was "humbling" and resulted in many internal changes.

    But many still worry how natural factors in northwest B.C. would make an oil spill especially challenging to control.

    'Zero spills' target

    Northern Gateway's 1,177 km pipeline would cross hundreds of cold, fast-moving waterways, that also move quickly into wetlands, and down rugged mountainous areas.

    These conditions are perhaps even more complex and difficult than the terrain faced by the company's oil spills in Kalamazoo or Minnesota, which were on much flatter terrains with slower moving water, said Langegger.

    Each day, Northern Gateway's two-way pipeline would pump 525,000 barrels of toxic bitumen westbound to coastal tankers, and 193,000 barrels of condensate would flow eastbound.

    An Enbridge website states that its target is "zero spills" using leak detection technology: "Just as failure is not an option for airlines or for the aerospace industry, the safety and reliability of our delivery systems are of paramount importance."

    But some find that hard to believe.

    "If there's an oil spill here on our rivers, that could potentially close the river to fishing for four years," said local angler Manny Arruda.

    manny arruda salmon fishing

    Arruda has worked in control room and emergency response positions at Rio Tinco Alcan, as well as Methanex, for nearly 20 years. He has experience in pipeline leaks, and told the JRP, they are unavoidable.

    “The bottom line is that no matter what state-of-the-art infrastructure, instrumentation, safety measures are in place, human decisions or lack of decisions will affect the outcome. Humans are the weak link,” he told the panel in 2012.

    “A long remote pipeline through mountain passes - there are no field operators readily available to check every kilometre of the line to verify what the control room operator may think is going on,” he added.

    Langegger, who works at a smelter, said Kitimat needs the right kind of industry. The district is also entertaining several multi-billion-dollar LNG development proposals.

    He said once the Enbridge pipeline construction boom is gone, the project's 50-60 direct jobs are not enough to justify the risk to the wilderness and wildlife.

    "I’d certainly like to have jobs, and have my children close to me in the future as they come into working age," said Langegger. "But do you let [an industry] over run the entire area and wipe out the habitat?"

    This was first published in the Vancouver Observer.

    Other related stories:
    Broken trust: Alberta family without answers about oil sands' health impact

    Alberta doctor tells U.S.: Canada is ‘lying’ about tar sands’ health effects

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    Meeting people in Europe is like stepping into a Wes Anderson film: everyone’s a little bit crazy, but with great shoes and rapier wit.

    If you’re fortunate enough to meet such a motley crew, you’ll find you’re a different person around them, too. That's because when you meet the right friends abroad, you do things you wouldn’t do at home in a million years – like dance on a beer-streaked table to “Whistle,” which you specifically requested – and that's okay.

    What you might notice as you make your way around Europe is that you’ll run into similar folks. Not to say you won’t meet incredibly unique individuals who might change your life forever, but depending on how long you’re gone, the quirky traits of your fellow travellers eventually become hilarious and mildly offensive stereotypes. To help prepare, here are some popular characters that have been known to crop up in Europe:

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    Seeking Summer in Spain? Here are 8 things you don't want to leave off the itinerary.

    Now that I have officially relocated to Prague, I have all sorts of daydreams about seeing more of Europe. Germany is but a four-hour train ride away. Italy -- less than an hour and a half by plane. And then there is Spain! My partner, who spent most of his life in Tuscany, has never been. As someone who has been to Barcelona three times, I can't get my head around this. Nevertheless, we are going. Soon.

    Looking for inspiration, I called up my not-so-long-lost friend -- Yasmin Malhotra. She has been to Spain countless times and, unlike myself, has toured the country extensively. Here's what she said about Barcelona and beyond.

    Blog continues after slideshow

    Primavera Sound 2014 / May 28 - 31
    This annual music festival pulls in some heavy hitters to perform at Barcelona's Parc Del Forum. Nine Inch Nails, Haim, Canada's own Chromeo and Arcade Fire, as well as some DJ hijinx will keep the party going late. The programme actually starts on Monday, May 26th so you can get your groove on all week long. I'm noting that a few of the Wednesday concerts are free.

    And when the scene gets too crazy, Yasmin recommends 4 Cats Café (Carrer de Montsió, 3) for a wind-down. "This was Pablo Picasso favorite haunt in his teens, as well as the site of his first art exhibition."

    Montjuïc Mountain
    To get far from the madding crowds, and for extraordinary city views of Barcelona, get yourself up Montjuic Mountain. "Such a hidden gem for those looking for a retreat, lush gardens, or tranquil natural surroundings. Laribal Gardens and Cactus Garden are two favorites."

    What was a fortress in the 1700s is now a culture vulture's paradise. Museums, lush botanical gardens, and a cemetery containing 20th century luminaries -- all make for an interesting visit.

    El Raval
    Once known as a rough and seedy barrio, El Raval has maintained its bohemian flavour and become a cultural hotspot. Standouts are the MACBA contemporary art museum and the Filmoteca art-house theater.

    "I could share an endless list of reasons why El Raval is my number one spot in Spain, but the places dearest to me are La Central de Raval bookstore and Holala Plaza. The former fulfills my passion for academia, aesthetically pleasing architecture, and hip coffee shops. It was once a chapel, so it's not just an impressive collection of literary works, but truly a marvel to look at.

    And, simply put, Holala Plaza is a goldmine for vintage shopping enthusiasts...funky furniture and clothing galore!"

    The area is filled with bespoke boutiques and enough colourful cafes to keep curious travelers satiated both day and night. Speaking of which, it's worth noting that this 'hood is situated between two of Barcelona's famous food markets -- La Boqueria on Las Ramblas and Mercat Sant Antoni.

    Casa de Madrid
    Moving on to Madrid, and a boutique hotel that will charm your socks off.

    Casa de Madrid is a converted 18th-century townhouse that is centrally located on one of the city's most unique avenues. Here guests are spoiled for choice as they can skip off to the old part of town, or stroll through the gorgeous gardens of nearby Campo del Moro. Or savour the fact that you scored one of the seven luxury rooms styled-out and inspired by the owner's trips to Japan, Persia and India. "Be sure to order a drink at The Club bar".

    El Rastro
    Madrid's most popular flea market focuses on antiques, but the real gem is the atmosphere. "It's a bit like a carnival, and similar to Las Ramblas in Barcelona, but in my experience it's less congested with tourists. Thus far more enjoyable." Find it along Plaza de Cascorro and Ribera de Curtidores, between Calle Embajadores and the Ronda de Toledo. Open for business every Sunday and public holiday.

    Parque del Retiro
    Marble monuments and expansive lawns make Madrid's version of Central Park a special place to take a time-out. If you've got a thing for gardens, this serene park is not to be missed.

    "Have lunch at La Gallette -- a cool, elegant spot with artsy decor and an intimate vibe. Try the Pear and Goat Cheese Ravioli and any of their tasty desserts. Best part: their daytime special is just 11 euros for an appetizer, entree, dessert and beverage!"

    Las Alpujarras Mountains
    Over to the province of Granada and the region of mountain villages known as Las Alpujarras. Imagine deep, sheltered valleys and gorges running towards the Mediterranean. "This is some of the most spectacular hiking you can do in Europe."

    Not feeling fit? Plan to stroll through one or two of the hamlets that dot the Poqueira Valley. The most picturesque villages are (from top to bottom of the valley) Capileira, Bubión and Pampaneira, which bustles at the bottom with craft shops and restaurants.

    The Cathedral of Burgos
    In northern Spain, the capital of Castile awaits for medieval history lovers. The foundation Cathedral was laid in 1221, and made even more glorious over the 15th, 16th and 18th centuries. It is the city's crown jewel and also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

    Get inspired and listen to summer jams -by some of the artists who will be at Primavera Sound 2014 -- on Yasmin's Spotify playlist.

    Air Canada Rouge is offering Summer deals to many European destinations so check for details. For deals on air, rail and trains, check out

    Photo credits: Primavera Sound, 4 Cats, MACBA, Casa de Madrid, Tourism Spain and Parque del Retiro by Jean Luc Renaut, courtesy of Town in the Alpjarras Mountains by Lopezia Sorokin via

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    It may seem like an art but finding the cheapest plane ticket is more of a science than anything else.

    If you've ever wondered how airline and travel booking sites come to that special number to withdraw from your bank account, know this: it's actually a variety of factors, some which you can control and others you can't, working together to determine the price of a flight.

    Things like class, the time and date of the flight, destination and ticket purchase date are all up to shoppers but things like competition of routes are factors travellers will just have to deal with, according to an infographic produced for Cheapflights UK.

    But what it really comes down to is seat demand. Seats are broken up into price classes based on certain restrictions like refundability and length of stay. Typically, the more restrictions, the cheaper the seat. But when there's a high demand for seats, sometimes the lowest price classes are eliminated since airlines know they can charge a little more because a lot of people want to fly to a particular destination.

    The same principle works in reverse with low seat demand. Seats set at lower price that were previously unavailable can open up if an airline needs more people to fly to make a flight profitable. But don't expect this to guarantee you a cheap last-minute flight.

    Basically it comes to demand: If you need a flight to say, sunny Mexico, more than the airline needs you to fill up a seat on the plane, expect a premium on last-minute tickets since the airline is banking on you willing to pony up a little extra to get to your destination on time. Data collected by CheapAir from 2013 also suggests the sweet spot to book a flight is way in advance — nearly two months ahead of time.

    If you're flying domestic, book 54 days in advance and if you're travelling overseas, that sweet spot extends anywhere from 80 to 151 before departure. Now, if you're someone who doesn't have the luxury of booking flights four months in advance, check out the short-term tips below that any flyer can use to help keep costs low.

    how to get a cheap flight infographic

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    Robert Wudkevich is being called a hero for saving a seven-year-old boy while on vacation in Cuba, but the Nelson, B.C. man is haunted by the fact he couldn't rescue the boy's father.

    Wudkevich, who is known as Woody, was sleeping on the beach at a resort in Varadero last week when a stranger woke him to help an Ottawa family in trouble, reported CBC News.

    Yue Liu had been playing in the water with his son, Connor, when an undertow pulled them into deeper water.

    Liu, 40, tried to hold his son's head above the water and screamed for help, said a website set up to raise money for the Liu family.

    "I cannot save you anymore" were the last words Liu said to his son.

    Wudkevich swam 200 metres into the ocean and reached Connor, who was struggling on his back in the water. "I managed to grab him and I looked to see his dad and a wave had taken him further away," Wudkevich told CTV News.

    The glass business owner carried Connor to shore alone, while others swam out to pull Liu back. The father could not be revived.

    "Every time I close my eyes, I see it over and over in my head, and I try to rationalize if I did the right thing and if there's more I could have done," Wudkevich told CBC News.

    Liu's wife, Fanyan Bu, and daughter, 9, who had been on the beach that day, are back home in Ottawa where members of the Chinese community are trying to raise $30,000 to cover the cost of bringing Liu's body back to Canada and for a funeral.

    Liu, who worked in IT, did not have any travel or life insurance.

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    SASKATOON, SASKATCHEWAN -- Perhaps there is no greater endorsement of Saskatoon and its rise in stature as a destination than what prodigal son Dale MacKay has chosen to do. MacKay was the first winner of Top Chef Canada, he had established himself among Daniel Boulud's successful brigade of proteges, and he was living in Vancouver, a city in proximity to many of the exceptional products coveted by cooks. A chef with MacKay's achievements would have no shortage of choices, in Vancouver or anywhere else.

    MacKay, though, opted for Saskatoon. Not only that, he managed to convince some of his closest and most talented friends to join him. Nathan Guggenheimer, a British Columbian who was chef de cuisine at Boulud's DB Bistro in Vancouver while MacKay was heading up Lumiere, helps run the kitchen as executive chef. Christopher Cho, who has teamed with MacKay in the past and was previously at CHARCUT in Calgary, is the general manager and mixologist. Another kitchen crew member from Vancouver, Jesse Zuber, is the head chef. Desserts are divine and prepared by Zuber and Stacey Coates, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.

    It all adds up to one of the best restaurants in Canada -- and there are many reasons why you could make a case that it is No. 1. Ayden Kitchen & Bar is that good.

    Housed in a converted diner, Ayden is a huge 3,100-square-foot restaurant, with an equally sized kitchen beneath its wood floors. It is in the subterranean space that MacKay and Guggenheimer work their magic for the Ayden menu.

    "This is even bigger than Daniel's kitchens," MacKay says, recalling time spent at his mentor's enterprises. When he speaks about his own kitchen, MacKay beams. Chefs, sous chefs and pastry chefs have stations where they can spread out and concoct. A tall meat grinder churns out the hamburgers that have already become a thing of legend in Saskatoon, even though Ayden is less than six months old.

    The Classic Butcher Burger is thick with Canadian prime ribeye beef, aged for more than 14 days, and blended with some fresh beef brisket to add plumpness before it's grounded with garlic and rosemary. The chefs then sprinkle in pieces of bone marrow (yes, bone marrow) and top it with a fried egg. It is ridiculous and ridiculously good.

    "We cook it medium rare, or not past medium. We know it's completely safe at medium rare because we know exactly where the beef comes from. You cook it passed medium, it starts to come apart. So if someone wants it cooked any more than that, we recommend they order something else," MacKay says with an artist's zeal for perfection.

    With a grin and chuckle that's a touch diabolical, he adds: "It's not a burger for the faint of heart, that's for sure. If you're watching your weight or are concerned about your cholesterol, you should stay completely clear of it."

    The eight-ounce burger is an indulgence of protein and calories. It is also a symbol, in a way, of today's Saskatoon. This is comfort food, but created with the exuberance of youth and the confidence of craftsmen who know financial opportunity is in front of them. In recent years, Saskatoon has been one of the nation's fastest-growing cities. Sparked by a boom in agriculture and natural resources, the city is flush with cash. Citizens are eager for flavours and experiences that can match their level of discretionary spending. When they're on the menu, the butcher burgers go fast.

    How much does the Classic Butcher Burger at Ayden cost? Read the rest of this article on to find out!

    The 2014 Top Restaurants in Canada is coming soon. In the meantime, here is the 2013 list to feast on!


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    If the idea of even less leg room on your flight seem incomprehensible, "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" might just change your mind.

    The comedy show put together a simulation and the results look kind of cozy...if "cozy" meant using the person behind you as a human pillow while they get to use you as a blanket in return.

    The show's comedic take comes after Air Canada announced it planned to "densing up" its fleet last Wednesday. The practice would see the carrier add more seats to its current crop of planes at the cost of less legroom to make more money on the same flights. Air Canada says it could add as many as 22 seats on its Rouge planes, while currently flying five Boeing 777 jets outfitted with an extra 100 seats, according to the Ottawa Citizen.

    So what does this mean for the consumer? Well if "22 Minutes'" take is any indication, there are some advantages to downsizing from 30-plus inches of space to just three. For starters, passengers wouldn't have to squint to see the entertainment unit and... well, that's about it, really.

    The trend towards more, slimmer seats and less legroom isn't unique to Air Canada though.

    Spirit and Airlines have gone ahead with installing new chairs as of last year. Spirit's chairs come fixed with 28 inches of leg room per person and can no longer recline. Southwest meanwhile has opted for slimmer chairs that can now recline two inches instead of three, the Daily Mail reports.

    Putting passengers in 76-centimetre-pitch seats "is standard practice now," said Walter Spracklin, a transportation analyst at RBC Capital Markets in Toronto. "It's the norm. It's not like a competitor is offering a better product solution for the same price," he told the Ottawa Citizen.

    On Tuesday, Air Canada announced it would expand its budget carrier, Rouge, to Calgary and Vancouver. The move would service some of current routes out west with widebody Boeing 767 jets capable of carrying 264 passengers, for a 25 per cent boost in seating compared to their older planes.

    This Hour Has 22 Minutes airs on CBC TV Tuesday nights at 8:30 p.m. Catch more clips of the show on Facebook and Twitter.

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    Musicians, industry folks and Manitoba expats from across the country are making their way to the heart of the continent, Winnipeg, for the 43rd Annual Juno Awards.

    Despite the fact that the Junos are in Winnipeg this year, you're not likely to see any musicians who still reside in the city during the live broadcast. Most of the obvious big names like, say, Randy Bachman have long since left the prairie town -- it hits 50 below, after all -- so we'd like to pass some exposure over to Winnipeg's next wave of music-makers.

    From the vocoder-laden avant-pop of Royal Canoe to the pummeling noise-rock of KEN Mode to the agit-folk of John K. Samson, the below playlist represents the city's burgeoning music scene of today -- be it bands on the come up or local favs that help keep the legacy alive.

    Click through the gallery to get acquainted with the city’s current crop of buzzed-about and beloved acts. Feel free to add to the list in the comments.

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    A new public art piece could give English Bay's A-maze-ing Laughter a run for its money.

    Korean artist Choi Jeong Hwa's Flower Tree is set to be installed not too far from Yue Minjun's beloved artwork.

    And, based on this rendering, it looks equally cool:

    flower tree

    It's coming to town as part of the Vancouver Biennale, which celebrates public art by featuring internationally renowned artists in the city.

    The metal and plastic tree will be 18 feet high, and will be erected on the water near living trees, reports The Globe And Mail.

    flower tree

    Other artists participating in the 18-month event, which started this month, include Ai Weiwei and Hugo França.

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    In what is being called the most significant big tree discovery in decades, a group of conservationists believe they have found Canada's second largest Douglas-fir.

    Preliminary measurements were taken of the tree, located in a clearcut in B.C.'s Gordon River Valley, on Thursday by conservationists with the Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA). Nicknamed Big Lonely Doug, the tree is about 39 ft. in circumference and 226 ft. tall, according to a press release issued on Friday.

    Big Lonely Doug is estimated to be about 1,000 years old.

    "This is a tree with a trunk as wide as a living room and stands taller than downtown skyscrapers,” TJ Watt, an AFA photographer and campaigner, said in the release.

    "Big Lonely Doug’s total size comes in just behind the current champion Douglas-fir, the Red Creek Fir, the world’s largest, which grows just one valley over [in B.C.]."

    douglas fir tree big lonely doug

    Watt first noticed Big Lonely Doug several months ago but only returned to measure the tree on Thursday along with AFA co-founder Ken Wu.

    The Gordon River Valley is located near Port Renfrew on the southern part of Vancouver Island, known as the "Tall Trees Capital" of Canada. As the release states, Big Lonely Doug "stands on Crown lands in Tree Farm Licence 46 held by the logging company Teal-Jones, in the unceded traditional territory of the Pacheedaht First Nation band."

    Big Lonely Doug is a rather fitting name for the large Douglas-fir that stands alone in an otherwise empty area.

    “The fact that all of the surrounding old-growth trees have been clearcut around such a globally exceptional tree, putting it at risk of being damaged or blown down by wind storms, underscores the urgency for new provincial laws to protect B.C.’s largest trees, monumental groves, and endangered old-growth ecosystems,” said Wu in the news release.

    The AFA also warned that the number of tall trees similar to Big Lonely Doug are growing scarce in the Pacific Northwest.

    “The days of colossal trees like these are quickly coming to an end as the timber industry cherry-picks the last unprotected, valley-bottom, lower elevation ancient stands in southern B.C. where giants like this grow.”

    Staff from the Ministry of Forests will take official measurements of Big Lonely Doug in early April.

    See photos of Big Lonely Doug:

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    A little-known bill that will drastically alter the management of B.C. parks became law this week, creating controversy among the province's most prominent environmental and conservation organizations.

    The passage of Bill 4, known as the Park Amendment Act, will make way for industrial incursions into provincial parklands including energy extraction, construction of pipelines and industry-led research.

    The bill, quietly introduced in mid-February, has already met significant resistance in B.C. where the environment minister received "thousands of letters" of opposition, according to Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society's Peter Wood. "There has been absolutely zero public consultation, and the pace at which this was pushed through suggests this was never a consideration," he said in a press release.

    "This bill undermines the very definition of what a 'park' is," Gwen Barlee from the Wilderness Committee said in the same statement, "given that our protected areas will now be open to industrial activity."

    "This is a black day for B.C. parks -- the provincial government is ensuring that none of our parks are now safe from industrial development," she said.

    According to staff lawyer Andrew Gage with the West Coast Environmental Law the bill is "difficult to square" with the sentiments underlying the B.C. Parks Service, which claims provincial parks and conservancies are a "public trust" for the "protection of natural environments for the inspiration, use and enjoyment of the public."

    In an overview piece, Gage wrote "Bill 4 allows for industry (and others) to carry out 'research' in provincial parks related to pipelines, transmission lines, roads and other industrial activities that might require park land. It also reduces legal protection for smaller parks."

    He noted that preliminary "research" carried out by mining company Taseko in preparation for an environmental assessment of the controversial Prosperity Mine included the drilling of 59 test pits, eight drill holes 50 to 75 metres in depth, and 10 holes roughly 250 metres in depth to collect metallurgical samples. The tests also required the creation of 23.5 kilometres of exploratory trails.

    Bill 4 claims permits for "research" will only be considered after a "thorough review of protected area values," yet, Gage writes, "this requirement is nowhere to be found in Bill 4."

    This amounts to a "'trust, us, we're government' approach," writes Gage.

    Previously, park use permits were only granted to those able to demonstrate the proposed activity was "necessary for the preservation or maintenance of the recreational values of the park involved." Bill 4 rids the Park Act of this safeguard.

    "The government has sent a clear signal that it is open to having pipelines cut through our globally renowned protected areas," said Al Martin of the B.C. Wildlife Federation. "The Act will now allow industrial expansion in some of B.C.'s most beloved parks, placing them at risk."

    Critics are also concerned the changes will open pristine landscapes to environmentally destructive oil and gas extraction processes.

    "This legislation opens the door to pipelines, oil and gas drilling and industrial activities that are counter to the values that created our parks system," said Darryl Walker from the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union. "If Bill 4 passes, 2014 will be the year that B.C. Parks changed forever," he said.

    Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and a group of other environmental NGOs have already collected nearly 10,000 signatures and letters in an effort to stop the implementation of the bill.

    These groups are claiming the total lack of public consultation left local communities, park users and conservation groups out of the decision making process.

    This article originally appeared on DeSmog Canada.

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    (Relaxnews) - Helsinki has emerged as the most expensive city in the world for room service, where visitors can expect to shell out an average of $38 USD for a club sandwich.

    In TripAdvisor’s newly released 2014 TripIndex Room Service, analysts compared the cost of in-room amenities like a club sandwich, a bottle of water, peanuts, a can of soda, a mini bottle of vodka and dry cleaning service to come up with a ranking of the most expensive and affordable destinations for common incidental hotel items.

    Visitors bound for Helsinki should be prepared to reach deeper into their pockets, as the average total bill for the room service amenities mentioned clock in at $89.

    That’s about five times as expensive as the cheapest destination, Tunis, Tunisia, where complete room service amenities cost a modest $18.

    Story Continues After The Gallery

    Not surprisingly, Scandinavia emerged as the most expensive region on the index, with Nordic cities claiming four of the top 10 most expensive spots. After Helsinki, Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen also made the list.

    The survey also revealed that travellers can expect to pay 22 percent more for room service amenities in the US compared to other major destinations around the world.

    The average total cost for room service in US cities is $55, compared to $45 for international cities.

    Meanwhile, Las Vegas emerged the most expensive destination in the US for hotel amenities, followed closely by New York and Washington DC.

    The most affordable cities in the US are Denver, Seattle and Minneapolis.

    The international index looked at four-star hotels in about 50 countries, while the US ranking examined hotel data from 15 of the most popular tourist markets, also with a minimum four-star rating.

    The club sandwich is a popular barometer for measuring the most expensive and affordable cities in the world. also produces an annual Club Sandwich Index. Their reasoning? The double-decker bacon and chicken sandwich is the most common hotel menu staple around the world.

    Last year, Geneva took the title of most expensive city, for selling the sandwich at an average price of $30. Geneva was followed by Paris and Oslo.

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