HicksBiz Blog

Hicks on Biz: CRNL deal with Shell a good thing BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, MARCH 17, 2017

All eyes are focused on the Alberta 2017/18 provincial budget – the spending side of the equation. But good news is happening in the oil and gas sector – where most of the money comes from. This is a tad ironic. According to the headlines, the sky is falling on the oilsands. A few months ago, international energy giants ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips announced a $4.4-billion write-down in the value of their oilsand reserves (the value of oil still in the ground). The sky is falling! Earlier this week, oil giant Royal Dutch Shell announced it was leaving the oilsands, selling its Athabasca Oilsands (Albian) mine, the Scotford upgrader and smaller oilsands holdings to Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL) for $12.7 billion. Locally, Shell will continue to own Redwater’s Scotford refinery alongside the upgrader, and will continue to operate both plants. The sky is falling! All the world players who piled into the oilsands from 1990 to 2014 are getting out! Whoa! The write-d ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks weekly dish: Get out to downtown dining week BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, MARCH 14, 2017

Hurry, hurry, Downtown Dining Week ends at the close of business this coming Sunday. If you don’t get a reservation as soon as possible, you may find yourself shut out. The event – superbly organized by the Downtown Business Association – is the Boxing Day sale of our better downtown restaurants. Pre-set two-course lunches can be had for $15 per person, three-course dinners for $28, executive dinners for $45. Rarely can you dine so well for so little. The last time I paid $15 for a lunch at most of these places was for a starter salad with water! Downtown Dining Week is a public-relations exercise that helps fill these downtown restaurants during a slow time of the year. In the tight margins of the food & beverage game, nobody makes money at these prices. But the exposure works, otherwise 33 (out of a possible 47 restaurants by my reckoning) would not participate – and most have come back for years and years. There’s discernment at work here. Within their ow ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Looking forward to the Indigenous People’s Experience BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, MARCH 10, 2017

My wife and I are off to Winnipeg for a few days this summer. We’ll visit relatives and see the city. But our primary motivation will be visiting the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Opened in 2014, the museum cost $350 million. It is already a civic icon. Think of Winnipeg and you think of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Blue Bombers, the Jets and now the human rights museum. Maria and I will spend about $1,000 on airfare, accommodations, meals, getting around and admissions. Winnipeg Tourism will love us – proof tourist dollars are flowing into Winnipeg thanks to the museum. That’s why I am so excited, in so many ways, about the now fully-funded $42 million Indigenous People’s Experience exhibit to be built at Fort Edmonton Park. The exhibit will be the crown jewel of a $150-million upgrade (a three-way split between the Edmonton, Alberta and federal governments) to our top historical attraction. Fort Edmonton’s aging utilities will be overhauled and other inter ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks weekly dish: Bundok top-notch comfort food BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, MARCH 07, 2017

Bundok 10228 104 St. 780-420-019 Bundokyeg.com Tuesday to Thursday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to midnight Closed Sunday and Monday Food: 4.5 of 5 Suns Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns Service: 4.5 of 5 stars Dinner for two (excluding beverages and tip): basic, $40; loaded, $80  Bundok is misleading. The name of Edmonton’s latest downtown, chef-as-chief-attraction bistro sounds very Asian. Indeed, it means ‘mountain’ in Filipino. Bundok owner and chef Ryan Hotchkiss will likely play with Oriental flavours in the future, depending on the season. But for its wintery opening months, Bundok’s menu is all about French-inspired comfort foods, not rice and soy. Delicious, top-notch comfort food it is. The subtle, soft hand of a culinary master is at work. A relationship exists between all 12 starter/sharing small plates ($4 to $9) and the four entrees ($18 to $28, with a striploin at $38), a similarit ... Read the rest of entry »

Crazy For You at the Citadel Theatre: Way Too Much Fun!!! theatre review by GRAHAM HICKS

Crazy For You Citadel Theatre, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada March 4-26, 2017 Review by GRAHAM HICKS,  Hicksbiz.com It was an audacious daring experiment, even as Momma Mia was being awkwardly built around a framework of  ABBA songs. In 1992, playwright Ken Ludwig (Lend Me A Tenor) took the classic hits of George and Ira Gershwin from the 1920s and 1930s, stitching them into a successful new Broadway “jukebox” comedy musical that utterly captured the spirit and humour of the songs and their era, and, at the same time, had a strong story line – not just a series of sketches hung between songs. The Citadel’s version of Crazy For You, in partnership with Theatre Calgary, works like a damn. It’s big, boisterous, full of fun, silliness, and word-play groaners. The plot is pure fluff, but it’s fun fluff – show girls, dreams, cow pokes, crazy impresarios, veering in locale from New York City to Deadrock, Nevada.  The dancing is vaudeville tap-dancing ... Read the rest of entry »

HICKS on BIZ: Alberta has to clean up its environmental act BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, MARCH 03, 2017

So here we go, folks. The Notley government’s Climate Leadership package has descended upon us. Your home heating bill has a new carbon levy charge. Your price per litre of gasoline now has a 5 cent a litre carbon levy built in. Environment Minister Shannon Phillips has announced the broad outlines of a $645-million program (over five years) to promote energy efficiency in Alberta homes and businesses. About $36 million is being made available this year to subsidize home solar panel installation, and $21.5 million for free home upgrades for energy-efficient products. At the mega-level, i.e. in the billions, this government has decided to eat all the costs of a long-term deal with utility companies to get rid of coal in the current 2016-17 budget. That decision adds another billion dollars to a provincial deficit now predicted to hit $10.8 billion by the end of March. There’s no middle ground. Either you are all for this kind of government spending for the greater good, or you are ag ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: A look at ancient restaurants of Edmonton, frozen in time BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2017

They might as well be on Mars, as far as modern dining goes. The ancient restaurants of Edmonton have stood unchanged, frozen in time. To walk into the Saratoga, the Flamingo or Billy Budd’s is to head back to the ‘50s or ‘60s, to walk into a world of rec-room panelling, thin carpeting, naugahyde booths, room dividers and fake plants. Everything is 50 shades of brown. But there is comfort. While the foodie world searches for the latest pork belly, bouillabaisse, octopus or carpaccio, many Edmontonians loathe such foods. They don’t want surprises. They want normalcy, familiarity and friendliness. No matter how old they may be, they want what their mom made for them. Or a good steak. Just before the 23rd Avenue turn-off, The Saratoga (2610 Calgary Trail) has faced Calgary Trail for 59 years. Despite being open since 1958, it has no real dining reputation. It’s just been there. As I drove to The Saratoga, I wondered what I’d find. Would the gravy be the all-purp ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Viewtrak - Making lemonade from lemons BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2017

One door closes. Another opens. Every cloud has its silver lining. Should life hand you lemons, make lemonade. Ted Power and Hubert Lau, co-presidents of Edmonton-based Viewtrak Technologies, specialize in making lemonade out of lemons. In 2012, the two businessmen were asked by a group of Alberta investors to manage Viewtrak, a livestock tracing company created in the aftermath of the mad cow disease crisis internationally and then in Canada in 2003. Viewtrak had since run into financial difficulty. Last year, Viewtrak was named Exporter of the Year by the Alberta Business Awards of Distinction for its PG-207 pork grader probe – a best-seller in China. The company is a finalist for the 2017 Small Business of the Year in the same awards, and was just named Innovator of the Year at the Canada-wide 2017 Air Miles Small Business Achievement Awards. Before Viewtrak, Power’s business expertise was in traceability. His Trace Applications company is a leading supplier of traceability pr ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: The good, the bad and the spending BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2017

Keeping tabs on government spending around our fair city … Bringing Mill Creek back to the surface is a wonderful idea. It now dips underground (between the Connors Road/Scona Road split) and flows into the North Saskatchewan as if it were a sewer outlet. But then the dreamers come in with lakes, parks, restaurants and sugar plums … “not over $100 million,” says one hopeful advocate. *** Fort Edmonton Park needs $70 million worth of infrastructure upgrades just to keep the toilets flushing. So that’s a necessary expenditure. The proposed $42 million Indigenous People’s Experiences Interpretive Centre at Fort Edmonton is a good investment too … if it truly brings international and national tourists to Edmonton who’d otherwise not come. Mayor Don Iveson was suggesting a few months back that the soon-to-be-vacant old Provincial Museum building could be redeveloped into yet another Indigenous People’s showcase. What’s another $100 milli ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks weekly dish: Four years later and I’m disappointed BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2017

Canteen 10522 124 St. 780-465-5727 Canteenyeg.ca Tuesday to Friday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Mondays Food: 3.5 of 5 Suns Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns Service: 3.5 of 5 stars I was disappointed. Very disappointed. When Canteen opened on 124 Street in late 2012, it was one of the first chef-driven bistros to dramatically elevate the quality, quantity and fun of casual fine-dining in our town. Frank and Andrea Olsen, chef and maître d’ respectively, had long made the Red Ox Inn in the Strathearn neighbourhood a dining establishment of choice. Canteen was the Red Ox Inn’s cheekier younger sister, with more flair, more “fun” fine dining. My first visit to Canteen, a few months after opening, was a true dining experience – exactly as Frank had conceived. I still remember his unusual, super-tasty French fries, big, juicy Moroccan lamb chops and almond-coated Arctic char. Four years later, it was ... Read the rest of entry »