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Category: Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Hicks on Biz: A new kind of oil boom BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 09, 2016

Ever since the world price of oil crashed and burned in July of 2014 and remains a smouldering wreck of over-supply, Alberta’s power brokers have talked about economic diversification, talked about weaning us off our love affair with oil + gas, talked about finding a new lover to shower us with the same kind of wealth.   The problem has been that nobody knew quite what to do. Even if a plan comes together, growing dynamic, profitable, job-creating companies and new industries is a long and arduous process, fraught with peril. . But now future industrial possibilities are emerging that actually sound like decent bets. It’s about a host of futuristic non-polluting products that can be made from oil; products that are fast becoming cheaper, lighter alternatives to metals used in manufacturing. In a talk to the University of Alberta Energy Club, Alberta economic thinker and industry strategist Dr. Richard Dixon made a gloomy but realistic case for an enduring global slowdown in dem ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Let Maritimes history be a lesson to Alberta BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 02, 2016

A just-ended holiday through Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia could well be called idyllic. The beaches of Prince Edward Island, the coastlines of the Bay of Fundy, Cape Breton's highlands, 400 years of colonial history and Maritime friendliness: Through the eyes of a visitor, it was delightful. But, sadly, some things have little changed from my last Maritimes visit 40 years ago. The economy remains about the same - not much besides tourism, agriculture and the lobster fishery. Population growth has been minimal. Unless they land public sector jobs, young Maritimers usually must leave to work elsewhere until they can retire back to their beloved ancestral homes. It wasn't always thus. From the 1600s through the birth of Canada, even up to the 1920s, the Maritimes were a powerful economic driver, as important as Alberta is to the country today. Alberta, take notice. How quickly prosperity can slip away - especially when governments pursue "save the planet" policies that will even further de ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Edmonton seeing return of eco features in neighbourhoods BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, AUGUST 12, 2016

When I was a kid, we’d ride our bikes to what’s now called a “wetlands”, but back then was simply undeveloped urban land, more swamp than anything else. We’d crash our bikes on the twisty trails we’d created, we’d build forts, we’d do what kids love to do – play in a natural environment with our pals. My friend Peter Koziol has the best tales of an idyllic childhood in pre-Abbottsfield Beverly. He and his pals roamed the neighbourhood and local “wetlands” all Saturday. The parents didn’t worry, because the kids were together, checking in regularly at friends’ homes for Kool Aid and cookies. The only rule was be home for dinner when the street lights came on. But sometime in the early ’70s, neighbourhoods became nothing but cookie-cutter homes on tiny lots with ugly garage doors facing the street. Any open land was transformed into manicured parks, sports fields or playgrounds. About the same time, parents started t ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Farewell to Northlands as we know it BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, AUGUST 05, 2016

This is it.   Northlands in its current form will no longer exist after its visit with Edmonton City Council later this month, though it may emerge as a much smaller organization.   Edmonton city council will be feeling guilty about yanking the rug out from under Northlands’ feet – opting to build the snazzy new downtown arena with the Oilers, instead of renovating Rexall Place with Northlands. That one move guaranteed Northlands’ current perilous financial state.   But there’s no way on God’s Little Green Prairie that city hall is going to fund the capital costs of Northlands’ no-arena “Vision 2020” that’s coming to council for discussion.   Guilt is not enough rationale to fork over $215 million to the venerable, not-for-profit organization to fulfill its “Vision 2020” wish list/survival plan. And certainly not enough reason to write off the Northlands EXPO Centre’s $45 million mortgage as wel ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: NDP declares war on business BY GRAHAM HICKS, FIRST POSTED Edmonton Sun, THURSDAY, JULY 28, 2016

Premier Rachel Notley must be asking herself, “What in the world have we done?” In the few short minutes of a press conference last week, her deputy Alberta government leader Sarah Hoffman declared war on Alberta’s corporate sector. By deciding to take electricity companies like ENMAX, TransCanada and Capital Power to court, and employing an absurd propaganda campaign to justify the move, the New Democrats have blown up a year’s worth of trying to present themselves as a moderate political party that business need not fear. The essence of the disagreement — electricity regulation is so complex as to defy any one-paragraph explanation – is about “change-in-law” clauses common in any contract between government and private-sector suppliers. A “change in law” clause protects the supplier against any arbitrary government move – be it unanticipated taxation or otherwise – that might change the agreed-upon economic outcome of the tr ... Read the rest of entry »

icks on Biz: Alberta's new haves and have-nots BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: THURSDAY, JULY 21, 2016

It’s about the “haves” and the “have nots.” But in Alberta it’s not the rich business types versus exploited workers. It’s about the fat cats with high-paying, secure, low-risk jobs in the public and quasi-public sector, versus the unemployed/underemployed workers and former executives in the private sector – specifically the oil and gas sector. Just look at the “Public Sector Body Compensation Disclosure” list just published by the provincial government. It illustrates the growing chasm between Alberta’s “haves” and “have-nots” by showing the real salaries (including overtime, bonuses etc.) of all those making $125,000 or more in Alberta’s public agencies. All the names are published. You can check out Uncle Don’s 2015 salary. So that’s how he could afford the $1.1 million Windermere home! I can’t give you a total figure – you’d have to open each report from the 120- ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: The cost of killing coal in Alberta BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: THURSDAY, JULY 14, 2016

Sure, Alberta can transition from coal-fired electricity to renewables – wind farms, water power (hydro) and solar farms. Sure, if we’re willing to pay two to four times more for power than is now the case. The best, least-cost solutions to lower air pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Alberta are all about natural gas, not renewables. The provincial government has decreed all coal-burning plants in Alberta must be shut down by 2030. Half that power, 4,200 MW, must be replaced by renewables – at this point, meaning wind farms. There’s so much here that doesn’t make sense either economically or environmentally. Shutting down older coal-burning plants makes sense. They do pollute. Three of them have effectively finished their life-cycle and will come off-line, as per federal government environment regulations, by 2019. Shutting down our newest coal-burning plants by 2030 does not make sense. They are designed to last much longer. Built with stringent p ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: The great renewable energy gamble BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, JULY 08, 2016

Since being elected in May of 2015, the New Democratic government of Alberta has done exactly as it said it would do.   With determination born of quasi-religious conviction, it has sturdily marched to the front lines of the global climate-change battle.    Never mind that Canada is not the culprit, that our carbon/methane emissions do not move the needle globally. This government has decreed that coal must go, gas is an ass and oil a necessary evil, to be tolerated until it can, in the distant future, finally be banned.    In a perfect New Democrat/Greenpeace world, all energy will be renewable, powered from running water, wind and sunlight. Albertans will magically maintain their post-carbon standard of living by growing organic vegetables, inventing and manufacturing alternative energy products.   Just one minor detail: These policies will effectively bankrupt Alberta. The looming new carbon tax, soon-to-come soaring electricity costs and the indifference to the declin ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Overcoming the "economic development” conundrum BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, JULY 01, 2016

"Economic development” is as loosey-goosey a business/government term as was ever invented. But every province has an economic development department, which funds economic development agencies, including, in Alberta, the constantly restructuring Alberta Innovates. The federal government has so many economic development programs that even the bureaucrats can’t remember half of them.  Every city has an economic development agency, i.e. the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation. Within the city, dozens of non-profit organizations help young businesses grow or get better — TEC Edmonton, Startup Edmonton, Alberta Women Entrepreneurs, Business Link, Northern Alberta Business Incubator (NABI), NovaNAIT and NINT Innovation Centre. Having just wrapped a five-year stint as a part-time communications advisor with TEC Edmonton, I’ve gained some insight into the nature and value of business incubators/accelerators. Are they needed?  Yes. If they do what they are supp ... Read the rest of entry »

HICKS ON BIZ Edmonton looking at three big deals with EPCOR, regional planning and bus buying BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED, EDMONTON SUN, SATURDAY, JUNE 25, 2016

A spate of Metro Edmonton reports, recommendations and proposals have been pumped out over the past month. All have wide-ranging implications, but few have been analysed or debated in wide-reaching public forums. Within all these issues, what’s the best, most efficient use of taxpayer’s money? EPCOR’s latest bid to take over the city’s drainage services:  What’s there not to like about this deal? Twenty years ago, CEO Don Lowry transformed the city’s electricity department into EPCOR, a private company owned by the City of Edmonton. EPCOR then pivoted out of power generation (by creating Capital Power), took over the city’s water and waste-water treatment plants, plus the pipes in between – and springboarded that water expertise into a profitable company running municipal waterworks across North America. EPCOR now pays a $140 million a year shareholder’s dividend to the City of Edmonton every year. Imagine removing that $140 million from t ... Read the rest of entry »