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Category: Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

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 »

Hicks weekly dish: One problem with Porkapalooza BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, JUNE 21, 2016

There’s only one problem with Porkapalooza, the successful early summer barbecue food festival held last weekend (June 17 & 18, 2016) at Clarke Park/Stadium. Meat is sold by the 30 food vendors and food trucks on site. But only the judges taste the fabulous cooking from the 42 teams entered in the barbecue competition. It’s like watching beautiful plates of food go by at a fine restaurant, with none for you: To have one’s nose scrunched up against the window pane, gazing at goodies beyond your reach: To be told as a kid that it’s “FEL” night — Family Eat Less — at gramma’s Sunday night dinner. Unexpected relatives have shown up. It was to suffer, to downright suffer, to view, smell but not taste Darren Cave’s beautiful Scotch quail eggs as they were carried from the Red Boar BBQ team’s smoker across the festival grounds to the judges’ quarters for the (optional) ground pork cooking category. Instead, I had to buy barbecue ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Party in power matters not BY GRAHAM HICKS, Edmonton Sun FIRST POSTED: FRIDAY, APRIL 15, 2016

It’s not about the political party that happens to be in power. If Jim Prentice hadn’t called the Alberta election a year early, his Progressive Conservative Party would be in the same deep do-do as Rachel Notley’s New Democrats. It’s about a near unalterable reality that Albertans must face. This economic crisis isn’t going away. Global energy analysts predict world oil and gas prices will not recover for a very long time, probably decades. World-wide demand for fossil fuels is dramatically slowing. Supply just keeps on growing. There’s no way around it – Alberta’s over-all standard of living will have to drop. By how much, nobody knows. For the sake of argument, let’s say, conservatively, 10%. It matters not what party is in power. The gusher of cash from oil and gas is gone, not to return for many, many years. In Calgary, they call it the new “long low.” The marketplace, that cold-hearted beast, has already reacted, s ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Edmonton Oilers, job losses and more BY GRAHAM HICKS, Edmonton Sun FIRST POSTED: FRIDAY, APRIL 08, 2016

A little bit of this, a little bit of that in Hicks on Biz this week – Living longer, bus depots in the middle of nowhere, cuppa coffee with the Oilers, job losses, farmland. Another minute in the spotlight Of the 133 former Oilers who gathered Wednesday to bid farewell to Rexall Place, about half the names were recognizable. The other half were here for a cuppa coffee, likely playing a few games before being sent back to the minors. Most of the guys have woulda, coulda, shoulda stories – untimely injuries, the GM didn’t like them, too many players at the position, never given a chance. Still, they made it to the Big Show, if even for a game or two, creating a treasured memory. Friends and relatives all know Joe Schmo was an Oiler for a few games. Now, thanks to this collegial gesture by Oiler management, they all enjoyed another moment of recognition.   Farewell oil-patch jobs, hello McJobs Interesting job statistics from a TD Bank study: The provincial job mark ... Read the rest of entry »