HicksBiz Blog

HICKS ON BIZ: Alberta's long, long haul back to prosperity By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN July 19, 2018

Premier Rachel Notley, and Minister of Finance Joe Ceci, arrive at Scotsman's Hill in Calgary on Wednesday July 4, 2018. Leah Hennel/Postmedia So what’s happening out there? The Alberta government, 10 months at most away from the next provincial election, is holding up the economic glass and pronouncing it just about darned full. Business leaders wonder what brand of almost-legal marijuana Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and her financial minister Joe Ceci have been smoking. Edmonton’s been okay. Our financial health is underpinned by near 25% of the citizenry being on government and quasi-government (health/education) payroll, which the union-friendly NDP government has not cut. But Calgary was devastated, and most of Northern Alberta’s oil/gas regional centres – Cold Lake, Drayton Valley, Grande Prairie – are still in shock from the oil price crash of 2014, plus increased corporate and personal taxes, carbon taxes and increases to the minimum wage. In late Jun ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Greyhound pull-out a shock, but not a surprise By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, July 13, 2018

Passengers disembark on May 29, 2016, from the first Greyhound bus to stop at the new Greyhound station, which opened in the Via Rail location at 12360 121 St.Ed Kaiser / Postmedia That Greyhound Canada abruptly pulled out of Western Canada – and it doesn’t get more abrupt than three months’ notice – was a shock. But, in retrospect, the end of Greyhound (Western Canada) should not have been a surprise. Greyhound was operating on an obsolete model of scheduled bus service at fixed prices, leaving at the same time of day and heading out on the same routes no matter the demand or number of passengers on board, not caring about how passengers got to-and-from its bus depots. It also explains why Greyhound seemed content at its “temporary” bus station in some moose pasture (the VIA Rail terminal) out by the Yellowhead and 122 Street, having moved after the downtown bus station land was sold to Daryl Katz’s ICE District development company. In retrospe ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Volcano — there's reason for lack of recognition By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN July 17, 2018

Dragon's Eye maki roll. Volcano Japanese-Vietnamese Restaurant 4226 Gateway Blvd. 780-756-2218 Volcanoedmonton.com Delivery: SkipTheDishes.com Sun. to Thurs. 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fri. and Sat. 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Food:  2.5 of 5 Suns Ambience: 3 of 5 Suns Service: 2.5 of 5 Suns Dinner for two, excluding drinks and tip: basic, $20; loaded $40 By GRAHAM HICKS Oh dear. As a restaurant reviewer, I read social media restaurant reports, check with friends in the hospitality business, monitor dining-out blogs such as Sharon Yeo’s OnlyHereForTheFood.com. Because noteworthy new restaurants in this town are quickly recognized.  Conversely, hundreds of restaurants initially aspiring to high culinary standards are ignored. They don’t live up to their hype. Last week, we took younger friends out to dinner. I was looking for a south-side eatery that was quasi-trendy, had visual and culinary style, and a menu with something for everybody. The pickings were thin. The Weekly Dish ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: The Captain's Boil is a big, happy surprise By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN July 10, 2018

Hello there, Mr. Crayfish! Crayfish from The Captain's Boil at South Edmonton Common. GRAHAM HICKS/EDMONTON SUN The Captain’s Boil Edmonton South Edmonton Common 2051 98 St. 780-485-8756 thecaptainsboil.com No delivery service,  online ordering with store pick-up Mon. to Thurs. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. Sun. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Food:  4 of 5 Suns Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns Dinner for two: basic, $30; loaded $60 By GRAHAM HICKS The Captain’s Boil is a big, happy surprise. I am never one to trust franchise-restaurant operations. There’s no chef in the kitchen, no creativity at the table, usually just a franchise owner taking all orders from head office. But this Captain’s Boil – a rapidly growing Canadian franchise with some 30 restaurants across the country — is different. It’s fun, it’s shockingly different, the seafood is quite delicious, and very, very well-priced. The overall ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Alberta can tackle social programs because of strong economic bedrock By GRAHAM HICKS, first published EDMONTON SUN, July 6, 2018

Edmonton skylineJason Franson / Postmedia By GRAHAM HICKS On Canada Day, Alberta’s news reports were all about righting wrongs from Canada’s past, be it racism, mistreatment of First Nations peoples, gender inequality, LGBTQ pride and acceptance. These are all fine causes worthy of our attention. But what is sometimes lost is that the ability of our province to devote so much to sociological/cultural issues rests on a solid economic bedrock and a high standard of living. Without far-sighted decisions made in the past, Alberta’s economy would be nowhere close to what it is today. Let’s celebrate, and teach our children, about the historical choices and people that have made Edmonton and Northern Alberta one of the most materially prosperous places on Earth. On my list would be: The building of Fort Edmonton:  If the Hudson’s Bay Company hadn’t built Fort Edmonton (1795 to 1891), Edmonton wouldn’t be here in the first place. The Cana ... Read the rest of entry »

Oscar would approve: Teatro La Quindicina's production of The Importance of Being Earnest - review by GRAHAM HICKS, Hicksbiz.com

The Importance of Being Earnest Teatro La Quindicina production at The Varscona Theatre Edmonton, Alberta, Canada July 12 to 28, 2018 Review by GRAHAM HICKS,  Hicksbiz.com Watching The Importance of Being Earnest, Irish playwright Oscar Wilde’s acclaimed farce that is as robust and amusing today as  when first produced 123 years ago, is to realize this play’s seminal influence on most light-hearted humourous scripts written since it hit the stage. There is not a comedic sit-com, a crazy Mayfield Dinner Theatre farce or humourous romantic film that does not owe a debt to The Importance of Being Earnest.  Remarkably, Wilde’s play continues to be the standard-bearer of plot, of beautiful and witty language, of a comedy of manners. Over a century later, The Importance of Being Earnest does nothing but improve with age. It is so appropriate for Teatro La Quindicina to stage The Importance of Being Earnest. Teatro’s  playwright-in-residence Stewart Lemoine almo ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Imagine Okuda fundraiser a chance for chef to wow diners By GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun July 3, 2018

Imagine Okuda Fundraising Dinner June 27, 2018 Holy Roller Restaurant By GRAHAM HICKS The Weekly Dish usually avoids special-event dinners, given the idea is to review a restaurant in its every-day mode, to review anonymously, and to report on menu offerings that are always available. But this six-course fund-raiser on June 27, was different. It was created to raise funds for a six-story mural in Old Strathcona by globally recognized Spanish street painter Okuda San Miguel. San Miguel’s geometric works are packed with colour and vibrancy. The mural — to be painted on the north-facing side of the Crawford Block in a little-known plaza east of Gateway and south of 83rdAvenue – will offset the unrelenting white (snow) and green (evergreen trees) of an Edmonton winter. Imagine Okuda was also a chance to support Michael Maxxis, a culinary entrepreneur (Holy Roller, Have Mercy, and El Cortez restaurants) and a filmmaker. The interiors of his Old Strathcona restaurants are works of a ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Goodbye Edmonton, hello region By GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun June 29, 2018

Edmonton City Hall.David Bloom / Postmedia By GRAHAM HICKS It’s one thing for politicians to defend tax increases as a necessary evil, to fund services being demanded by the citizenry. But then there’s a reality called the free market. Invisible political boundaries surround the City of Edmonton. Step across that boundary into Sturgeon, Strathcona, Leduc or Parkland counties. Magically, industrial land prices drop by a half or more.  Ongoing business property taxes check in at 50% less than in Edmonton’s industrial parks. When existing companies expand or modernize, they are moving out of Edmonton to the major industrial parks in municipalities surrounding  the city — the Nisku and Leduc business parks, Parkland’s massive Acheson business park butting up against the city’s western boundary, Strathcona and Sturgeon counties for heavy industry. Last year, needing to expand, Ford’s Western Canadian distribution centre left its building ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks' Weekly Dish: Silk Bar Kitchen, a bar with good food, not a restaurant By GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun June 26, 2018

The seared basa filet on cous cous was a highlight of Silk's bar dining. Photos by GRAHAM HICKS/EDMONTON SUN Silk Bar Kitchen 10344 105 Street (beside the Quest condo tower) 780-264-1444 Silkbarkitchen.com Tues. to Fri. 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sat. noon to 12 a.m. Sun. noon to 2 a.m. Closed Monday Food: 3.5 of 5 Suns Ambience: 2.5 of 5 Suns Service: 3 of 5 Suns Dinner for two, just food – basic $35, loaded $65 By GRAHAM HICKS The food experience in Edmonton is being blended into the bar/lounge experience. It is not a particularly pleasant picture. Full evenings of casual but elegant dining — inspired by RGE RD and Corso 32, in turn inspired by the likes of the Hardware Grill – are being replaced by lounges offering more complex bar food than in the past. When you walk into Silk Bar Kitchen, you are not walking into a bustling restaurant for a 6:30 p.m. dinner. You are walking into a near-empty bar, that two hours later is still nearly empty, and likely won’ ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Alberta's carbon tax nonsense By GRAHAM HICKS, first published Edmonton Sun June 22, 2018

Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci.Gavin Young / Postmedia By GRAHAM HICKS So the Alberta carbon tax is now in its second year of implementation. So far, it is doing next to nothing toward achieving this government’s extraordinarily expensive Climate Leadership Plan goals. So far, it is, as respected University of Calgary economic Jack Mintz says, just another “government tax-and-spend slush fund.” This tax is a miserable failure. It is adding dramatically to the cost of gas at the pump – 6.73 cents per litre hidden within the overall price per litre – without producing results. Vehicle dealerships are not reporting a dramatic shift from SUVs to sub-compacts. Most individuals cannot dramatically reduce their miles travelled. Gasoline sales have not dropped. It’s an especially cruel tax on home heating. It’s not like any home owner today can further renovate to  reduce the amount of natural gas used to heat our homes.  From Jan ... Read the rest of entry »