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Category: Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

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 »

Hicks on Biz: Prosperity will return after COVID-19, but will we still be around? By Graham Hicks, first published EDMONTON SUN, April 24, 2020

Chief Jim Badger said Sucker Creek First Nation is well prepared to deal with the single COVID-19 case since the individual was infected from a connection in High Prairie and is now self-isolating.NIAID-RML / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Despite the current COVID-19 and oil/gas malaise, Alberta has survived and eventually prospered after every economic downtown since it became a province in 1905, and even before that, through the boom-bust cycles of the 19th Century fur trade totally dependent on the whims of European haberdashery. “Of course we’ll recover,” says a retired friend. “But will I be around to see it?” BUY AT THE BOTTOM, SELL AT THE TOP The bad news is the stock market crash a few weeks ago. The good news – never talked about – are the careful investors who kept a chunk of their holdings in cash and are now happily buying blue-chip stocks at a fraction of their 2019 prices. For all the complexities, stock market investment follows a predicta ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: What’s going to happen after COVID-19? By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, April 17, 2020

The near empty parking lot at the Premium Outlet Centre shopping mall near the International Airport in Edmonton, April 17, 2020, is an indication of the economic impact of COVID-19 restrictions.Ed Kaiser / Postmedia What’s going to happen? After the pandemic, will recent graduates find decent jobs? Will you have enough money to cover the mortgage and utilities? If not, will the banks/government cut you some slack? Will seniors receive the same government pensions as in the past? Could private pension payments be slashed? If I’m a businessperson, can I ride out the storm … or does all the blood, sweat and tears I’ve put into this enterprise end in bankruptcy … unless the government somehow bails me out? STORY CONTINUES BELOW Let’s not kid ourselves. The economy — thanks to COVID-19, rock-bottom oil prices and wanton over-spending by Ottawa and Alberta in the recent past — is in horrible shape. It’s worse than ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Out of crisis arises opportunity By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, April 10, 2020

Downtown Edmonton is seen from Ada Boulevard near Rundle Park in Edmonton on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020.Ian Kucerak / Postmedia, file The glass is half-full, not half-empty. Never waste a good crisis. From the ashes, the phoenix is reborn. Positives can arise from this unprecedented economic emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, impossibly low oil prices and forever-delayed resource development. The biggest positive? A shattering of conventionality. For decades, Alberta made half-hearted efforts to innovate and diversify beyond oil and gas. It never really happened.  It was too easy to make a ton of money from oil and gas. STORY CONTINUES BELOW Today, these last few weeks, it has hit home. Either we drastically change, or we die. Every other jurisdiction in Canada, and around the world, faces a similar challenge. If we are all rebuilding from ground zero, Alberta looks really good. Our population is young, strong and talented, supported by excellent educatio ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: COVID-19 and the mystery of public debt By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, April 4, 2020

PhotoMan - Fotolia In this emergency pandemic, the federal government says it will spend about $82 billion over and above its 2020-21 $180 billion budget. In Alberta, the province pegs the direct cost of fighting the pandemic at $500 million, above and beyond its $56 billion 2020-21 budget. On top of that $500 million,  Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has announced a provincial government  “investment” (i.e. repayable if all goes well) of $1.5 billion to get TC Energy’s Keystone XL pipeline built, plus $6 billion in loan guarantees, i.e. if TC Energy goes bankrupt, the government of Alberta is on the hook to pay its outstanding bills. Where does all this money come from? It’s borrowed! For years and years, both governments have been spending more than what’s coming in from taxes. Before the pandemic, Ottawa had accumulated $713 billion in debt, Alberta about $85 billion. STORY CONTINUES BELOW Both governments cover their annual shortfalls ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Oilers playoff anticipation brings March madness to Edmonton By Graham Hicks first published Edmonton Sun, March 9, 2020

Edmonton Oilers' Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) celebrates a goal on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) at Rogers Place on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020.Ian Kucerak / Postmedia It’s March, there’s still 13 games left in the regular season.  The Oilers aren’t guaranteed a playoff spot yet. But the city is already going playoff crazy. At last week’s Oiler away games, the bars, lounges  and sports pubs were full, even though it was mid-week, even though it’s the quietest time of the year for the hospitality business. Sales are piling up for Oiler jerseys, car flags, foam fingers, ball caps. The excitement grows. Because it’s apparent to hockey-savvy Edmontonians that the Oilers are fast becoming one of the league’s better teams – with two leading scorers, two dangerous forward lines, depth up front, a fast-maturing defensive corps and two goalies shooting out the lights. STORY CONTINUES BELOW The anticipation ... Read the rest of entry »

HICKS ON BIZ: Lots more oil still to come By Graham Hicks, first published Edmonton Sun, February 28, 2020

The Aspen Oil Sands Project, Imperial Oil’s $2.6 billion, new in-situ oilsands project will eventually produce 150,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd). It is under construction. Foster Creek Oil Sands Expansion Project — Cenovus — $2 billion, adding 40,000 bpd — under construction. Lewis/Meadow Creek East/Meadow Creek West SAGD Oil Sands Projects — Suncor — $2 billion, around 200,000 bpd from different projects — proposed. Narrows Lake In Situ Oil Sands Project — Cenovus — $1.6 billion — 130,000 bpd — proposed, currently deferred. What is our problem here? Why the tears and teeth-gnashing over the indefinite postponement of the TECK Frontier open-pit bitumen mining proposal in the oilsands, when environmentally acceptable in-situ oilsands projects are lined up around the block? STORY CONTINUES BELOW A quick oilsands refresher: There are two ways of extracting heavy oil (bitumen) from the oilsands, open-pit mining a ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Fact is it's a Goldilocks economy By Graham Hicks first published Edmonton Sun February 22, 2020

Crews walk past the polypropylene reactor and the giant crane being used to raise it into position at the Heartland Petrochemical Complex in Fort Saskatchewan on Thursday, March 7, 2019.David Bloom / Postmedia, file Do we laugh or cry over the state of Alberta’s economy? We are so swayed by the latest headlines, especially the enormous conflict between Western Canadian oil and natural gas versus the youthful/progressive/protest cry for a no-carbon-fuels world. Our bitumen, and now B.C.’s natural gas, has become symbolic of a global fight to the death between unspoiled nature and evil global capitalism. The captains of Alberta’s No. 1 industry are the baddest dudes of all. On the one hand, despair. The global energy companies, huge pension funds, and our fellow Canadians want nothing to do with our No. 1 industry, if only because they will be blocked by climate warriors and our federal government at every turn. On the other … The Alberta government has an excelle ... Read the rest of entry »
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