HicksBiz Blog

Category: Provincial politics

Provincial politics

Hicks on Biz: Be terrified ... and thrilled about Alberta's NDP government BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN FIRST POSTED: FRIDAY, MAY 29, 2015

Should Alberta business be terrified of this new all-orange New Democrat government? Or thrilled? Probably half and half. One thing is for sure. The day after the New Democrats pulled off Canada’s biggest political upset in the last decade – taking 54 of Alberta’s 87 provincial ridings - the business community was absolutely and utterly stunned. At every corporate executive and board meeting, at every Chamber of Commerce get-together, the same question was asked. “Does anybody know any of these people?” And the answer was 100% “nope, no idea who they are.” It’s terrifying that the reins of power and control of a $42 billion budget is being passed over to a bunch of school teachers and social workers who have never run anything besides community leagues, a few school boards and ND constituency organizations. It’s exhilarating that a huge breath of fresh air – a hurricane of fresh air – has blown out the accumulated cobweb ... Read the rest of entry »

HICKS ON BIZ: Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund used, abused BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN POSTED: FRIDAY, JULY 04, 2014

Had successive Albertal governments stuck to their guns and kept growing the Alberta Heritage Fund from energy royalties rather than simply spending the cash, the Heritage Fund today would be worth north of $100 billion, easily able to contribute a steady - say $10 billion a year – stream of revenue into general government revenues while continuing to grow. Instead, it's stuck at $17 billion.

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HICKS ON BIZ: A fix for the Temporary Foreign Workers' program BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN POSTED: FRIDAY, JUNE 27, 2014

So, quite suddenly, Alberta’s (lower-end) job market has been thrown into turmoil by the federal government’s toughening up of its Temporary Foreign Workers Program. It’s been long known that the program has/had serious flaws: An unscrupulous hotelier, for instance, bringing in a foreign worker in a waiter category, then transferring him/her to housekeeping at (lower) waiter wages. Even in worker-short Alberta, the Alberta Federation of Labour says companies are hiring foreign workers (at lower wages) when Albertans are available. Still, it was surprising how the feds, despite glaring labour shortages in Western Canada, were so abrupt in changing the current system. Major, major abuse of the Temporary Foreign Workers’ program must have been happening for Employment Minister Jason Kenney to move so quickly. How Alberta brings its jobs-to-workers ratio back into balance is beyond the scope of this column. Obviously the politicians have to do something. The country will suf ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Saskatchewan wins big: EDMONTON SUN FIRST POSTED: FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2013

Yes, it was Saskatchewan’s day last week, when the Roughriders trounced the Hamilton Tiger Cats to win the 2013 Grey Cup, at home!  But the Miracle on the Prairies is far greater than Darian Durant, Kory Sheets, Weston Dressler and that amazing offensive line composed of beefy Saskatchewan farm boys. The Roughrider triumph is symbolic of the turnaround in Saskatchewan’s economic fortunes, since Brad Wall’s Saskatchewan Party came to power in 2007. Saskatchewan has gone from zero to hero — from a debt-riddled economic backwater to a province brimming with accomplishment — and the surface is scarcely scratched. Government numbers offer a snapshot of economic fortune, and Saskatchewan’s are impressive. The Saskatchewan government’s accumulated debt (excluding crown corporations) has shrunk from $13 billion in the late ‘80s to $4 billion today. After 80 years — 80 years! — of a population stuck at 900,000, Saskatchewan has shot up ... Read the rest of entry »

Alberta Premier Alison Redford is no leader: Alberta budget 2013: Hicks on Biz column originally published in Edmonton Sun, March 16, 2013

A few weeks ago, every mad dog in that online kennel known as the Hicks on Biz comment section was taking a chunk out of my sorry rear for the suggestion, the mere suggestion, that Alberta Premier Alison Redford was a pretty smart political cookie.Well, after that provincial 2013/14 budget announced on March 7, I apologize.The mad dogs were right.Her fiscal course for the coming year was politically expedient, but not what was right for Alberta.Redford took the easy way out.The 2013/14 budget was a watershed.Redford and her Conservative government could have introduced new taxes and at the same time kick-started the Heritage Fund.She had the perfect storm. The Alberta public was ready to accept short-term pain for long-term gain.Martha and Henry, Ralph Klein’s “severely normal” Albertans, have finally realized we can’t spend every penny of oil royalties and never save for tomorrow. With minimal new taxes and much the same spending, Redford could then have diverted 30% of oil revenues into savings, as envision ... Read the rest of entry »

Premier Alison Redford is smart: HIcks on Biz, originally published in Edmonton Sun, Feb. 23, 2013

He’s mad! He’s mad! This Hicks on Biz chap has gone clear off his rocker! He is suggesting Alison Redford is smart! Super smart! A superb politician! I am indeed. It’s fashionable these days to verbally pound Alberta’s premier at every turn. In Wednesday’s Edmonton Sun, four columns, one editorial and one news story were all over Redford and Finance Minister Doug Horner for not anticipating a huge drop in energy royalty revenues, a drop creating $4 billion government revenue shortfalls for the current and next fiscal years. You read it here first. By the time Redford heads into the next election, likely April 2016, she could have a balanced budget, no provincial debt, and a start on building the Heritage Fund ($16 billion) to the size of Alaska’s Permanent Fund (now at $41 billion). Why am I not a madman? The current free fall in government revenue is all about the “bitumen bubble,” the massive discount on the pr ... Read the rest of entry »

Alberta is a fool's paradise: Hicks on Biz, originally published in Edmonton Sun, Jan. 12, 2013

There are many popular myths out there about fat-cat Alberta.They are all true.We do pay less income and consumption taxes than any other large Canadian province.Our government does spend more (per-capita) than any other large province, besides debt-riddled Quebec.Our doctors, nurses and teachers are the best paid in the country, especially considering taxes, expenses and living costs.We are hopelessly addicted to non-renewable royalties, so addicted that it wouldn’t matter how damning the environmental consequences, oilsands expansion must continue.The consequences: We are living in a fool’s paradise. We have squandered our oil/gas/coal royalty wealth by living for today, not saving for tomorrow. Despite an income gusher that no other province has, our provincial government is still about to plunge into debt.Increased provincial income or consumption taxes, along with reining in public sector, health care and education labour costs, is the only prudent, fiscally sound path to a solid future for our kids.But ... Read the rest of entry »

Wildrose bad for E-Town: My Hicks on Biz column originally published in the Edmonton Sun on April 27, two days before the Conservative provincial election victory

If there is a Wildrose government come Monday night, will it be good or bad for the northern Alberta economy, good or bad for Edmonton?Good overall for Northern Alberta: The macro-economic policies of both Wildrose and the Conservatives are pro-business. The sustainable oilsands will stay solidly on the rails.Bad for Edmonton in particular.I say this with a heavy heart. A change of government, any change, after 40 years is attractive. Away with the PCs’ arrogance, entitlement and intimidation.But the most practical course for Edmontonians, to save our jobs, to prevent corporate pullouts to Calgary, to not be second-class citizens in our own province, is to hold our noses and vote Conservative.If Danielle Smith wins a majority government, those seats will come from Calgary, southern Alberta and maybe a few in northern Alberta.Nobody, including Wild-rose strategists, see a Wildrose seat from Edmonton.What happened in the past when governing parties in Alberta had strong majorities, but no representation from h ... Read the rest of entry »

Why Alison Redford won the Alberta Provincial Election so convincingly, and why the media and the pollsters missed it

Why I think the conventional media and the pollsters bet on the wrong horse in this Alberta provincial election of April 23, 2013.Most were forecasting a majority Wild Rose government, the new Wild Rose party taking at least 44 of the 87 ridings up for grab.The actual results: Progressive Conservatives, 61; Wild Rose, 17; Liberals, 5; New Democrats 4.Do you remember when Premier Alison Redford won the Conservative Leadership race with an astounding come-from-beyond sprint, from 17% of the party vote to over 50% in the final ballot two weeks later?Do you remember how she won, by mobilizing medical and education professionals through unconventional means (i.e. the social media) that was most effective, but very difficult to quantify. Do you remember that nobody, but nobody, predicted she could possibly win?Let's go back to October of 2010, when now-Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi emerged out of a flock of mayoralty candidates to win when he wasn't even a front-runner. Let us remember Stephen Carter was Nenshi's cam ... Read the rest of entry »