HicksBiz Blog

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 »

Kinky Boots at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium: Bodacious, sassy and fun! Review by GRAHAM HICKS

Kinky Boots  Broadway Across Canada touring show Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, February 14 to 19, 2017 Tickets $30 to $180 Review by GRAHAM HICKS,  Hicksbiz.com Watch out Edmonton! If the whole city starts rockin’ and rollin’, dancin’ down the streets and prancing about in outrageous  sequinned boots, it’s because the energy and spirit of Kinky Boots exploded out of the Jubilee Auditorium and is cascading across Edmonton.  Not since Hairspray has a touring Broadway show been this much fun, so high calibre and so socially relevant.  Kinky Boots is a bodacious blend of sassiness, social message, social relevance, an intriguing story-line, great songs (thank you Cindy Lauper), astounding choreography and bigger-than-life talent. How did this plot get dreamed up? Its bones are about a reluctant heir of a dying English shoe-making factory, who accidently discovers a niche market for drag-queen boots. But for the business to surviv ... Read the rest of entry »

Baskerville at the Mayfield Dinner Theatre - Farce and murder mystery delightfully collide: Review by GRAHAM HICKS

Baskerville – A Sherlock Holmes Mystery Mayfield Dinner Theatre, Doubletree by Hilton Hotel, 16615-109 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada February 7 to April 2, 2017 Tickets (including buffet dinner), $75 to $100 Mayfieldtheatre.ca Review by GRAHAM HICKS,  Hicksbiz.com There is something enticingly relaxing about an evening out at the Mayfield Dinner Theatre. You are not supposed to think critically, not supposed to debate the show’s inner meanings, not be upset or outraged. You are simply to sit back, satiated after a good buffet dinner, sipping on a nice glass of wine, and be entertained. And the entertainment value doesn’t get much better than the comedic farce/whodunit now playing, Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery.  Five actors, 30-plus characters, dozens of scenes introduced by the actors sneaking scenery on stage,  a farce with many doors equally carried on stage for actors to jump in and out of.  It truly is a laugh a mi ... Read the rest of entry »

The Citadel Theatre's 2017/18 season is the real-meal deal - story by GRAHAM HICKS

Commentary on the Citadel Theatre's  unveiling of its 2017/18 season by GRAHAM HICKS, Hicksbiz.com  Citadel Theatre, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada February 13, 2017 The sigh of relief was audible last week among seasoned Citadel Theatre fans in Edmonton, as, play by play, new artistic director Daryl Cloran unveiled the 2017/18 season. This kid, the grizzled veterans of Edmonton theatre thought to themselves, is for real. Until the 2017/18 season announcement, we didn’t know quite what to think of Cloran. The Citadel board search committee had plenty of time, almost a full year, to find a replacement for past artistic director Bob Baker. Baker had announced his retirement after 17 excellent years at the helm of the theatre. He continues an association with The Citadel as artistic director emeritus. The board was excited about Cloran, who during six seasons as director of Kamloops’ innovative Western Canada Theatre had built a national reputation for both innovation and aud ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Oil patch is bouncing back BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2017

Heartening news is emerging out of the oil patch. According to two of the best energy analysts in Alberta, Peter Tertzakian and Jackie Forrest of Calgary’s ARC Energy Research Institute, plus anecdotal evidence from those working in the oil patch, things are picking up. Not like the halcyon days leading up to the Great Crash of 2014, mind you. But way better than 2015 and 2016, when barely an oil-patch wheel was turning and the Canadian energy industry had losses of $52 billion and $32 billion, respectively. Right now, 200 drilling rigs are out there in Alberta — up 50 per cent from a year ago. The drilling is for higher-valued natural gas, liquids (ethane, propane, butane) and oil. Oil biz CEOs are banking on $50 US (or more) a barrel for West Texas oil — $70 Canadian — being steady for the next few years. Improved technology has dramatically lowered drilling costs and increased production per new well. The returns have piqued investor interest. Conventional oil, gas and l ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: OTTO Food and Drink is all about small-is-beautiful BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 07, 2017

OTTO Food and Drink 11405-95 St., Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 780-477-6244 ottofoodanddrink.com Hours:  5 p.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, No reservations Food: 4 of 5 Suns Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns  Price: Dinner for two (excluding beverages and tip): basic, $20; loaded, $45 Beer drinkers, sausage eaters and conversationalists, rejoice. You now have the perfect Edmonton eatery – OTTO Food and Drink. OTTO is friendly, modern, clean, easy on the wallet and without pretense. It’s in a solid working-class neighbourhood a few blocks north of Little Italy on 95 Street. OTTO is designed for conversation. There are no televisions, no loud music. What a concept! Other than the usual sides (fries, mac & cheese, coleslaw, potato and house salads) and desserts, OTTO sells nothing but sausages. (Actually a “veggie of the day” is on the chalk board. The beets on horseradish-seasoned goat cheese were inspiring.) You also go to OTTO to dri ... Read the rest of entry »