HicksBiz Blog

EDMONTON: How did it happen?

HOW DID IT HAPPEN? By GRAHAM HICKS How did it happen on May 29, 2023? How could an entire city vote for the opposition in a provincial election? How could an entire ALBERTA city, one-third of the province’s population, elect 20  New Democrat socialists into the provincial legislature? One hundred per cent New Democrat! Not a sliver of blue to be seen in an ocean of orange. I mean, this is ALBERTA – the Texas of Canada, capitalist to its very bones, Canada’s conservative bedrock! The rest of the province stayed true to form -  rural Alberta went 100 per cent to the right, to the governing United Conservative Party.  Calgary was a battleground between UCP and New Democrats, but the UCP won over half of Calgary’s seats, Outlier Edmonton sent a wave of  labour organizers, teachers, social workers and nurses to the provincial legislature – Not a single one of them will sit at the cabinet table, or even in the governing party caucus.  Edmonton 100% re ... Read the rest of entry »

EDMONTON: Where's the Boom?

“Edmonton – Where’s the Boom?” By Graham Hicks January 17, 2023 We live in strange times here in Edmonton. Every other time we went through high energy price cycles – when oil was running between $100 Cdn to $130 Cdn -  Edmonton boomed.     Restaurants and clubs were opening every week, packed from the moment they opened their doors. The fun zones of the city – Old Strathcona, the west end of downtown – pulsed with energy.  Money gushed through town.  If you wanted a job, you got a job. Well-paying too. At times Edmonton and Calgary led the country in rising real estate prices, low vacancy rates and expensive rents. It’s been a year now – since the start of 2022 - that oil and gas prices had the big rebound. But the city still seems to be in a post-pandemic lethargy. Pedestrians in the party zones are few and far between. A depressing number of quality restaurants have gone out of business. The “for lease” ... Read the rest of entry »

Indigenous People's Experience at Fort Edmonton Park delivers on all levels

When I retired as an Edmonton Sun columnist last year, I gave myself an out. If the spirit so moved, Hicksbiz thoughts and reporting just might show up on the hicksbiz.com blog. The spirit has moved – with the re-opening, after three long years, of Fort Edmonton Park, and equally important, the brand-new Indigenous People’s Experience living museum, a new $40 million building and park within the Fort Edmonton Park compound. The entirely re-built park (all the underground infrastructure had to be upgraded), plus new history-appropriate attractions, re-opens on Canada Day 2021 after three long years of being closed for renovations.  Four years ago, after the announcement of the upgrades and construction of the Indigenous People’s Experience (in partnership with the Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations and the Metis Nation of Alberta), some wishful thinking ensued. If the Indigenous People’s Experience lived up to its billing, might it be the final piece to a lo ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Good luck and farewell by GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun, June 12, 2020

This is a momentous time. Some kind of new order – be it a correction, or a massive do-over – feels to be in the making, on many fronts: social, economic, geopolitical. The reaction to the Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd feels quite different than after previous tragedies. A collective, visceral realization has happened. For too long have we overlooked, denied, downplayed the reality of being Black or Indigenous. If we are ever to live up to ideals of egalitarianism, we’d best humble down. A pile of internal and external attitude-changing remains to be done. On a global scale, the economic, social, and medical implications of the COVID pandemic are just beginning to take shape. The size of the mountain emerging out of the shadows is staggering. At home, our Alberta public health authorities have done a fine job, minimizing the virus outbreak through group action. STORY CONTINUES BELOW But now we face the cost of the pandemic. Jobs are gone, many not ... Read the rest of entry »

HICKS: Racism is not gone from Edmonton By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, June 5, 2020

Thousands of people gathered in Calgary's Poppy Plaza to protest against racism and police brutality on Wednesday, June 3, 2020. The global protests were ignited after the death of George Floyd, who was killed by the police in Minneapolis.Azin Ghaffari / Postmedia, file Two steps forward, one step back. That is how long-time Indigenous advocate Lewis Cardinal describes Edmonton’s progress – and often lack thereof – in creating a sense of “belonging” within the city for its Indigenous residents. The topic comes up in the wake of the unprovoked murder of George Floyd, a black man, in the hands of Minneapolis police. Led by the Black Lives Matter movement, the incident has galvanized awareness of injustice to Americans (and Canadians) no matter their colour. They have realized racism is alive in North American culture …  and a younger generation has resolved to improve matters. Much as we would like to think otherwise –  as Cardinal says ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Pandemic spending could leave Edmonton feeling like Regina By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, May 30, 2020

The skyline of Regina, Sask. Graham Hicks warns the post-COVID world could alter Edmonton's standard of living to Regina-like levels.Edward Willett / Getty Images/Flickr RF The memory is still vivid. In 2003, as an Edmonton Sun columnist, I headed to Regina to report on the non-football side of that year’s Grey Cup. Which the Eskimos and Ricky Ray decisively won. What lingers is the image of Regina. It was like going back in time. Everything was neat and tidy, but the homes were smaller and the vehicles were older. STORY CONTINUES BELOW The downtown had a few middling-size office towers, all named after Saskatchewan crown corporations (companies owned by the province) or agricultural cooperatives. And the people were so nice!  They were not in a hurry. They had time to chat, a ready smile, a willingness to help. Edmonton with a population of 690,000 in 2003 was much wealthier and bigger than Regina, then with a population of 200,000. Even today, the d ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: De-carbonized oil the key to Alberta's future By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, May 22, 2020

TC Energy's Keystone pipeline facility in Hardisty, Alberta.Jeff McIntosh / The Associated Press Let us lay ourselves down a while and rest from this ceaseless doom ‘n’ gloom. Let’s have a chat with Ian MacGregor — the most creative and visionary mind in Alberta’s oilpatch, who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. MacGregor, through his company North West Refining, is a 50 per cent partner in the $10-billion Sturgeon Refinery located between Redwater and Fort Saskatchewan. He has so much skin in the game, it is amazing he has any hide left. And he’s been beat up real good. The refinery is brilliant, the first to convert Alberta bitumen (currently worth $30 a barrel) directly to diesel fuel (worth around $80 a barrel) to the tune of 40,000 barrels a day. STORY CONTINUES BELOW More important, the refinery has enabled the building of the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line. All its CO2 emissions are liquified under pressure, carried ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Climate change — the Alberta solution By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, May 15, 2020

The virus may dominate the headlines, but Alberta’s biggest battle still looms. If we do not gain the “social licence” to produce environmentally acceptable oil and gas, we might as well pack up and leave Alberta now rather than later. We face a staggering enemy, outnumbered even within Canada by those in provinces like  Quebec, Ontario, B.C. Those who believe fossil fuels must be phased out and replaced by renewable energy if the Earth is not to turn into one giant, overheated Sahara Desert. It is hugely frustrating, because Alberta is a world leader in “de-carbonizing” our oil and gas production, in creating products from fossil fuels WITHOUT releasing CO2 into the air. There is a little snowball happening, about 45 kilometres northeast of Edmonton. STORY CONTINUES BELOW A little snowball that must grow into an avalanche of positive proof: That the processing of oil and gas can be as pure and clean as driven snow. Coming up shortly are anno ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Why a post-COVID-19 real estate collapse is not going to happen By Graham Hicks first published: May 8, 2020

Edmonton's housing market started out strong in March, but ended with an overall decline of two per cent compared to last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.File Predictions of doom in the post-COVID Canadian real estate market have to be questioned … as do visions of sunshine and roses. On the gloom side, analysts argue COVID will be the straw that breaks the back of Vancouver and Toronto’s real estate prices, prices that have defied normal cycles by going up, up, up over the last 20 years with no major corrections. A real-estate crash in those two cities would send the Canadian economy reeling – a knock-out punch on top of the financial burden caused by the COVID crisis. A more convincing counter-argument says the financial storm will be minor. Thanks to COVID spending by governments, especially shoring up banks, things will return to “normal” (with way more debt, but nobody seems to care) in a year’s time. A sobering statistic: Until a few years ago, rea ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Northern Alberta’s pot industry — the euphoria is gone, but the buzz isn’t bad By Graham Hicks, first published EDMONTON SUN, May 2, 2020

Staff harvests cannabis at the Freedom Cannabis facility in Acheson, Alberta on Sept. 21, 2019.David_Bloom / Postmedia With all eyes on the COVID-19 crisis, the fledgling Northern Alberta cannabis industry has been slowly crawling toward some degree of normalcy. There are now 125 cannabis retail stores in Metropolitan Edmonton, which were allowed to stay open during the virus-combating lock-down (subject to COVID distancing and other preventative measures). Surprise, surprise, cannabis product sales have jumped, an estimated 20 per cent bump over expect ations. If every night is a Saturday night … While analysts gloomily say the gross revenue from 2020 Canada’s country-wide pot sales won’t  be close to pre-COVID  forecasts of $3.5 billion, and more likely at $2.5 billion, things are not so dire on the local scene. STORY CONTINUES BELOW A container of buds at the SpiritLeaf cannabis bud bar retail store in Edmonton on July 12, 201 ... Read the rest of entry »
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