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Category: Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Hicks on Biz: Is Edmonton headed for an economic rebound? By GRAHAM HICKS, FIRST PUBLISHED EDMONTON SUN November 10, 2017

One really shouldn’t be so foolish as to predict Edmonton’s economy. It’s like predicting how the Oilers will do. Who, six months ago, would have predicted our hockey team’s current dire straits? This column has been all gloom and doom on the future of Edmonton and Alberta’s economy. I’ve been arguing that the now-three-year crash in oil and gas prices shows no sign of let-up, that construction is slowing, that “carbon restraint” is clamping down on global demand for our oil and gas and at the same time raising Alberta’s electricity costs: That sky-rocketing provincial debt and a perceived anti-business bias from the current provincial government has scared off investment in Alberta. Not a pretty picture. But in the past few weeks a flurry of economic forecasts are painting a more optimistic future – at least for 2018 and 2019. The basic theory seems to be that things have been so bad — a 3% drop in Alberta’s economic output ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Save the downtown, the oilpatch and save us from city council BY GRAHAM HICKS, FIRST PUBLISHED EDMONTON SUN: November 2, 2017

Little stories that deserve to be bigger … save the downtown, the oil patch and clean coal, but  save us from city council and misleading marketing! DISPOSABLE DOWNTOWN? Do buildings now depreciate as fast as cars? In 1982, city council signed the death warrant on yet another historic Edmonton landmark. The historic Tegler Building came tumbling down so the Bank of Montreal (BMO) could construct a brand-new, glass-fronted regional headquarters in the heart of the downtown. The handsome, seven-story Tegler Building, with its brick exterior and Woolworth’s on the main floor, was a mere 70 years old. Judging from older office buildings in older cities, it had plenty of life left in it. Now the BMO building, only 33 years old (it opened in 1984), has a date with the wrecker’s ball. The bank has downsized into the next-door, brand-new Enbridge Tower. Regency Developments intends to tear down the BMO building and build a mixed-use high-rise on the site. The BMO building ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Red October hasn’t happened…yet BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2017

Happily, I’m on the hook to pay for a fancy dinner with my former boss John Caputo, now the Sun/Postmedia’s head of advertising for Western Canada. In June, Hicks on Biz predicted a serious financial downturn in Edmonton by the end of October, i.e. this month. Financial blood would be running on the street, I said, caused by the slowdown in the oilsands, the slowdown in all Northern Alberta construction and manufacturing, higher income and corporate taxes, minimum wage increases and the enormous debt being run up by this free-spending provincial government. It would all hit home, I said, with a sudden, thudding recession starting in October. Caputo, ever the optimist, took issue with the forecast. So we made a bet: A fine dinner, to be paid for by whoever was wrong. That was me. Hooray! Today, most credible economic forecasters – the Conference Board of Canada, Edmonton Chief Economist John Rose and others – are predicting a higher-than-average 4% growth this year ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: My platform if I ran for council BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: THURSDAY, OCTOBER 05, 2017

If I were running for Edmonton’s city council on Oct. 16, this would be my back-to-basics platform. City council’s first responsibility should be to the taxpayer, not the frivolous tax-user. Cleanse city council of “progressive” multi-million-dollar vanity projects, such as over-built bike lanes (never has so much been spent on so few, with so little in return). Bring fiscal conservativism back in favour. How can city council save taxpayers’ money, not spend it? Property taxes only provide enough money to maintain public infrastructure (roads, bridges, parks), to provide excellent police, fire and transit services. Leave the funding of social services — culture, social housing, social programs, recreational programs, libraries, etc. — to the provincial government with its much broader tax base. I love the Edmonton Public Library, but it should be funded from the provincial purse. Aim for true carbon reduction. The purchase of new city buses, for instanc ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on biz: Cheers to Alberta's oilsands! BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2017

I once interviewed former Edmonton mayor Steve Mandel, just as he was considering running for mayor. It was a ho-hum interview, not much to remember. But he made one point I will never forget. “Doesn’t matter how much the city’s economy grows,” he said, using his hands to make a widening circle. “If there’s any contraction,” he said, bringing his hands closer together, “no matter what, it’s going to hurt like hell.” No truer words have ever been said. Which is why most of us are mystified by the non-negotiable, end-of-fossil-fuel stance espoused by many in our midst. These environmental “progressives” are willing to risk a major drop in Alberta’s standard of living by ending our major industry … no matter how minimal its contribution to global warming may be. Here we are, celebrating 50 years since the opening of the first commercial oilsands mine in Fort McMurray. The Sun’s excellent six-part series on the oilsan ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Is it time for a taxpayer revolt? BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2017

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau are learning the hard way. Do not upset the little ol’ ladies. In one of the most remarkable missteps of modern Canadian politics, even the little ol’ ladies are spitting mad at this government’s proposed tax reforms. Ninety-two-year-old Nancy Power, an active (and powerful) federal Liberal party member all her life, has cancelled her party membership in protest. A now-retired independent business woman, Nancy used funds generated from investments within her Canadian professional corporation as her retirement fund. With the proposed tax changes, “they are going to take away 73% of my income,” says Power, “and that’s criminal.” Justin and Bill have been run over by an unforeseen truck. They thought they were simply carrying on with the Liberal election promise of helping the middle-class by more fair taxation of the top 1% of Canadian income-earners. Somebody forgot t ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks Weekly Dish: La Ronde retro throwback BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2017

La Ronde Restaurant - Retro Thursday menu,  Chateau Lacombe Hotel, 24th floor, 10111 Bellamy Hill 780-428-6611 Chateaulacombe.com Tuesday to Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Closed Mondays (Retro-Thursday menu available Thursdays only.) Three-course Retro-Thursday dinner for two, excluding tip and beverages: $132 Food:  4 of 5 Suns Ambience: 4.5 of 5 Suns Service: 4.5 of 5 Suns   It’s a fun idea and timely too. For the last few months, Edmonton’s No.1 viewpoint restaurant La Ronde at the top of the Chateau Lacombe Hotel has featured a Retro Thursday three-course menu. On Wednesday, September 27, 2017, the Chateau Lacombe will celebrate its 50th anniversary. When the hotel’s doors opened in 1967, it was considered the best thing in Edmonton since sliced bread. If you’d been a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed teenager taken by your family to dine at the swanky revolving La Ronde that first year, you m ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Family looms large in Stagewest's 75-year legacy BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2017

Family-owned-and-operated companies can be happy, healthy places moving nimbly around the feet of staid, mega-sized publicly-traded corporations. For 75 years and three generations, the Pechet family’s Stagewest Hospitality has played and prospered in Alberta. From hotels to restaurants, dinner theatres, casinos, land development, First Nation partnerships, travel agents and now a British Columbia winery, Stagewest has happily danced from hospitality opportunity to opportunity, buying at the bottom, selling at the top. No Pechets, however, currently live in Edmonton. Stagewest Hospitality’s third-generation CEO and President Jason Pechet is based in Calgary. Second-generation Howard Pechet, now semi-retired, has lived in San Diego but done business in Alberta since 1989. He moved his family to that city after Stagewest Hospitality’s flagship Mayfield Inn was sold to Alberta lumber baron Al Owen. Stagewest owns the Violino Gastronomia Italiana restaurant here, plus Mayfield Travel ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: A Little of This, a Little of That BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 08, 2017

A few small business/money related stories, each capable of being much bigger... OILSANDS RE-TOOLING Operating and capital costs in the oilsands have been reduced by a most impressive 30% since the Great Oil Price Crash of 2014, thanks to full-press utilization of cleaner, greener, safer, faster, cheaper technologies, plus more productivity per worker and wages coming back down to earth. How ironic that low oil prices have spurred these innovations, as beneficial to the environment as they are to the economy. Innovation was slow as molasses during the oilsands’ pre-2014 glory years – why look for efficiencies when there was so money to be made? The current slow recovery of the Alberta economy is likely more about the retooling within the non-renewable energy sector (and the re-building of Fort McMurray after last year’s fire) than any other business. But more bad news for oilsands labour is coming. As is happening in mining operations the world over, within two to three years, ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Utility bills are a crock of confusion BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, AUGUST 11, 2017

When my latest Enmax utilities bill arrived, I went on Facebook with my concerns. The monthly energy costs for my house, for June, were dirt cheap — $20.05 for electricity, $7.19 for natural gas. But the other costs, exquisitely detailed, seemed outrageous in comparison. Another $57.48 for other electricity costs, being the administration, distribution, transmission, balancing pool allocation, rate riders and Edmonton local access fees. An extra $66.57 for other natural gas costs: Administration charge, transaction fee, fixed delivery charge, variable delivery charge, rate riders, municipal franchise fee … and the dreaded carbon levy. Why, I asked on Facebook, so much billing gobbledygook? Are we being hosed? Is it meant to hopelessly confuse the customer, so we shrug our shoulders and pay? These complex bills have been around for 10 years. Yet the Facebook reaction was astounding. Some 60 comments ricocheted back, along with hundreds of likes. “A crock of confusion &he ... Read the rest of entry »