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Category: Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Hicks on Biz: Can't someone else own and operate Edmonton's transit service? BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN FIRST POSTED: FRIDAY, JANUARY 08, 2016

Tristan Hopper, Edmonton-based reporter for the National Post’s National Desk, has written a scathing critique of the new Metro LRT (Light Rail Transit) line – how not to build new urban rail transit – that is devastatingly accurate, and superbly written as well. The main issue has been the city’s decision to build new LRT lines at grade as much as possible, primarily to save money in the short-term. Hopper makes mince-meat of the alleged money-saving, pointing out that deliberately creating traffic gridlock at LRT at-grade crossings makes no sense whatsoever. Environmentally, vehicles are idling six to 15 minutes while waiting at LRT crossings. Efficiency goes out the window when hundreds of commuters and bus riders are held up by one LRT. And Hopper mentions, tongue-in-cheeky, the “spiritual” cost of wasted time and irritation. Hopper is right. So much so that Mayor Don Iveson, city council, Acting City Manager Linda Cochrane and Transportation Manager Dorian ... Read the rest of entry »


So how did this column do last year? How good was Hicks on Biz in reading business trends, on gazing into Edmonton’s economic future? Not bad, I’d say … with one big blooper that’ll haunt me for years. I said the Metropolitan Edmonton economy would dodge multiple bullets in 2015, and I was right. Despite the colossal drop in commodity prices, despite the economic hardship now pummelling Fort McMurray and Calgary, Edmonton did surprisingly well. City of Edmonton Chief Economist John Rose had predicted 3% growth in the Edmonton economy in 2015, with 20,000 new jobs. It looks like we’ll leave 2015 with a 3.8% growth rate and a net gain of 28,000 new jobs. It’s always good when an economist is too conservative! I said, back in August, that recession will hit Edmonton, hurricane-force, sometime in late January/February of 2016. Business activity will slow down, layoffs will be the order of the day, house prices will drop. In short, that 2016 will be a very, ve ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Alberta going back to the ‘80s BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN FIRST POSTED: WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 23, 2015

Sorry to be the Grinch, so soon after Christmas Day. But reality must be confronted. Alberta will soon be in its worst financial pickle since the '80s. Our naïve New Democratic government is in for the shock of its young life. The unforeseen consequences of corporate and personal tax increases, the new carbon tax and higher minimum wages are being layered on top of a fast-shrinking energy sector and a recession that's just now taking shape. The tax specialists consulted for this column were blunt. When the dust settles, they say, the provincial government won't have the added $1.1 to $1.55 billion it expects from corporate and personal tax hikes. By 2017, Alberta's corporate and personal tax revenue will shrink, not grow. Here's why. As of January 1, high-income earners - top managers, corporate partners and owners - will see their personal income tax rate (combined provincial and federal) jump from 39% to an expected 48% in 2016. Tax advisors are telling their clients to pay as much in ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Alberta's debt is not Ralph Klein's fault BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN FIRST POSTED: FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 06, 2015

Quit blaming Ralph! How do you like these headlines of late? From Calgary Herald columnist Naomi Lakritz, published across Canada: “Ralph Klein not NDP Alberta Premier Rachel Notley to blame for budget woes.” Or from Ricardo Acuna, executive director of the Parkland Institute, in a guest column in the Calgary Herald: “Klein’s policies got us into this mess.” They argue it’s all ex-Premier Ralph Klein’s fault that the current ND government must plunge back in debt to keep our economy from going to hell in a hand bucket. Ralph’s zealous cost-cutting from 1993 to 2006 landed us in our current pickle – Ralph slashed hospital beds, fired nurses and teachers! Roads weren’t built! Hospitals and schools weren’t built! We are, according to Acuna, “still working to recover” from Ralph’s axe. Get over it! Ralph’s serious deficit-slaying days were from 1993 to 1997. Twenty years ago! For goodness sake, ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Will Alberta end up like Greece? BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN FIRST POSTED: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2015

When reading about the latest provincial, federal or municipal budget, do your eyes not glaze over about three paragraphs in? None of us can see beyond our own noses. No serious tax increases are in the new Alberta ND government’s 2015-2016 budget. Good. The 20 per cent of Edmontonians who work in the public or quasi-public sector can breathe easy. No lay-offs, no salary reductions. The New Democrats will not cut the civil service, the health system or public education. Good. Good – now, back to the real world. How’s McDavid doing with the Oilers? Oh, the government’s going into serious debt. Who cares! Why worry? The average Ontarian doesn’t care about his/her provincial government’s $300 billion debt and it’s way worse than ours. The annual interest Ontario pays on its debt is “only” $11 billion, or a little under 10% of its latest $125 billion budget. Jolene and Joe Average couldn’t care less about what the ND are doing in ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Big cities not respecting public purse BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN FIRST POSTED: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2015

Wednesday’s “Cities and the Future of Canada“ annual Hurtig Lecture at the University of Alberta featured Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. The evening has to be analyzed in the context of the seismic shift in political attitude that happened in Canada last Monday. I was expecting practical, down-to-earth thoughts from these two, both considered leaders of a new wave of Canadian politics where big-city mayors get the same face time and respect as  provincial and federal leaders. And, being old school – witness my woeful misreading of Alberta sentiment as national sentiment in predicting a bare-majority Conservative government last week – I thought there’d be more concern from these two on how to pay for the updated Canadian urban agenda. Wrong again. The presentations, then discussion by these two mayors – intellectually heads ‘n’ shoulders above your average politician – were in the philosophical and politic ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: He's unlikable, but Stephen Harper will again be prime minister, with a majority BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN FIRST POSTED: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2015

He’s going to win. On Monday night, Stephen Harper and his Conservatives will be re-elected for a fourth term, with a majority government. A bare majority government, mind you, 170 of 338 ridings. (In 2011, The Conservatives won 166 of 308 ridings.) He’ll win, because almost all Canadians who describe themselves as “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” will continue to vote for his party. We’ll hold our noses while we vote. Harper the control freak – muzzling scientists and his own members of parliament, dissing the country’s top judge, ramming omnibus bills through Parliament, black-balling anybody who opposes him – is thoroughly unlikeable. I’m disappointed in what has not been done. He has given up on Senate reform, on smaller government, on tax-filing reform, on CO2 emission gestures. He’s lost interest in modernizing our military. The recession-fighting Building Canada Fund is now a Conservative slush fund. But &helli ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Suncor’s $4.4 billion 'hostile' takeover bid for Canadian Oil Sands is a good thing BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN FIRST POSTED: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 09, 2015

Suncor’s $4.4 billion “hostile” takeover bid for Canadian Oil Sands Ltd. isn’t about the Canadian Oil Sands. It’s about a far more intriguing subject – control of Syncrude. Along with CNRL and Shell, Suncor and Syncrude are the Big Four of Alberta’s oil sands production companies. Syncrude is actually owned by a consortium of oil companies. Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil (Imperial Oil is owned by ExxonMobil) is a 25% shareholder. Suncor owns 12%. Syncrude’s single biggest shareholder, at 37%, is Canadian Oil Sands Ltd.  The Syncrude shares are Canadian Oil Sands Ltd’s only asset. It’s an investment company, 100% invested in its Syncrude ownership position. Let’s go back in time:  When oil sands production finally became profitable – in the mid ‘90s – the Syncrude ownership group left its management team, led by Eric Newell and then Jim Carter, alone. Newell and Carter were ahead of their time in recognizing the n ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Edmonton's easier to get around now than it's ever been BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN FIRST POSTED: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2015

Good news! Edmonton’s transportation system is in really, really good shape … besides the potholes.  Complain though we will, our new and upgraded roads and bridges, our airport, public transit and private ride-sharing (Uber, not taxis) has never been better.  Automobiles (Roads):  The Henday Ring Road is the biggest single improvement, on time, on budget, three-quarters done with completion of the northeast leg next year. The end is in sight for the massive road re-construction on Hwy 216 (the Henday between Edmonton and Sherwood Park) from the Hwy 16/Hwy 216 interchange south to the Whitemud Drive. The widening and upgrading of the Whitemud’s Quesnell Bridge (across the North Saskatchewan River) has done the trick. Barring accidents, traffic now flows smoothly across that bridge at all hours of the day.  Likewise the Calgary Trail/23rd Avenue interchange has cleaned up a former mess.   The Queen Elizabeth II/41st Ave. SW interchange, weeks away from ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Where's the economic conservatism, Alberta and beyond? BY GRAHAM HICKS, EDMONTON SUN FIRST POSTED: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 04, 2015

FIRST POSTED: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 04, 2015 11:32 AM MDT | UPDATED: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 04, 2015 12:25 PM MDT A coffee shop displays signs for Visa, MasterCard and Discover. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/Files) Article Change text size for the story Print this story Report an error Related Stories Alberta Minister of Finance says deficit to hit $5.9 billion, or more, in first quarter fiscal update Gunter: Alberta NDP needs to rein in spending Gunter: There's no one home under Alberta's Dome Alberta could be facing largest deficit in three decades Wildrose leader Brian Jean says Notley NDP could be decimated in next election if they “govern to the left” I think I am economically crazy. All my adult life, I have abhorred borrowing. My wife and I paid off the house mortgage as quickly as possible. We buy used cars, paying cash. Our kids, with our help, graduated from post-secondary schools debt-free. T ... Read the rest of entry »