HicksBiz Blog

Wildrose bad for E-Town: My Hicks on Biz column originally published in the Edmonton Sun on April 27, two days before the Conservative provincial election victory

If there is a Wildrose government come Monday night, will it be good or bad for the northern Alberta economy, good or bad for Edmonton?Good overall for Northern Alberta: The macro-economic policies of both Wildrose and the Conservatives are pro-business. The sustainable oilsands will stay solidly on the rails.Bad for Edmonton in particular.I say this with a heavy heart. A change of government, any change, after 40 years is attractive. Away with the PCs’ arrogance, entitlement and intimidation.But the most practical course for Edmontonians, to save our jobs, to prevent corporate pullouts to Calgary, to not be second-class citizens in our own province, is to hold our noses and vote Conservative.If Danielle Smith wins a majority government, those seats will come from Calgary, southern Alberta and maybe a few in northern Alberta.Nobody, including Wild-rose strategists, see a Wildrose seat from Edmonton.What happened in the past when governing parties in Alberta had strong majorities, but no representation from h ... Read the rest of entry »

Why Alison Redford won the Alberta Provincial Election so convincingly, and why the media and the pollsters missed it

Why I think the conventional media and the pollsters bet on the wrong horse in this Alberta provincial election of April 23, 2013.Most were forecasting a majority Wild Rose government, the new Wild Rose party taking at least 44 of the 87 ridings up for grab.The actual results: Progressive Conservatives, 61; Wild Rose, 17; Liberals, 5; New Democrats 4.Do you remember when Premier Alison Redford won the Conservative Leadership race with an astounding come-from-beyond sprint, from 17% of the party vote to over 50% in the final ballot two weeks later?Do you remember how she won, by mobilizing medical and education professionals through unconventional means (i.e. the social media) that was most effective, but very difficult to quantify. Do you remember that nobody, but nobody, predicted she could possibly win?Let's go back to October of 2010, when now-Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi emerged out of a flock of mayoralty candidates to win when he wasn't even a front-runner. Let us remember Stephen Carter was Nenshi's cam ... Read the rest of entry »

Include oil & gas, and Edmonton is a hotbed of new technology - originally published in HIcks on Biz column of the Edmonton Sun, April 14, 2012

There’s a default position in Canadian business that goes unchallenged.Canadians aren’t innovative. Canadians aren’t productive. Canadians aren’t inventive.The mantra is repeated in northern Alberta. Our economy doesn’t “do” research and development. We’re scared of risk and the fear of failure associated with new technology, new processes. We’re too used to the easy life produced by an endless gusher of oil and gas.I’ve had the opportunity to explore this intriguing topic, working a few days a week as an adviser to TEC Edmonton, an incubator and accelerator of technology-intensive startup businesses.The business gurus have got it all wrong. This city and region should proclaim itself just as techno-savvy as “knowledge-based” cities like Boulder, San Antonio or Kitchener-Waterloo.Four events will counter the perception of Edmonton being ho-hum in “conventional” technology — the Analytics, Big Data and the Cloud conference, April 23 to 25 (abtech.ca), the 10th annual TEC VenturePrize Awards and Dinner (venture ... Read the rest of entry »

Of human love: Graham Hicks' review of The Citadel Theatre's Midsummer Night's Dream

Graham Hicks’ review of Midsummer  Night’s Dream  Citadel Theatre, through April 29, 2012. There’s a great charm to Tom Wood’s 2012 take on Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s not only about the oh-so-talented young actors from the Citadel /Banff training program, with whom  (Pride and Prejudice, As You Like It, Three Musketeers, Little Women) we are becoming quite familiar at this time of the year. As always, the program actors work their own magic, being so thoroughly professional, but so vital and enthusiastic and joyous. And they are a true ensemble, having been through an intensive six-week educational exercise far more binding than your usual rehearsal period. The charm is on top of this masterpiece of the English-speaking theatre, Shakespeare’s enormous talent turned to love, with three shows in one that continually interact, one with the other, of those inhabiting the supernatural world,  the Athenian aristocracy and its working classes. Directo ... Read the rest of entry »

Best bread, best French onion soup at The Dauphine Bakery + Bistro: Originally published in the Edmonton Sun, Wed. April 11, 2012

The Dauphine Bakery and Bistro(780) 421-4410 10129 104 st Edmonton, AB T5J0Z9 Mon to Sat. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday open until 7 p.m.   As the Queen of Tarts of the 104 Street Downtown Farmers’ Market, Linda Kearney’s lemon tart pies were usually sold out before noon.  Fortunately, Kearney had the energy to expand into a permanent bakery and bistro, which sadly, for copyright reasons, cannot use the “Queen of Tarts” moniker. The Dauphine is just steps away from her summer market booth, and what a fine addition to the year-round dining scene it is. The ambience is surprising and delightful. The street-front doors of the old building on 104 Street open onto a wide set of cathedral stairs, leading into an airy loft basement that is anything but — huge ceilings and natural light from the storefront windows create an inviting bakery with the floor space of a warehouse. The main dining space is a niche alongside the great staircase, just seven or eight tables, pl ... Read the rest of entry »

Worker shortage looms again: Hicks on Biz column originally published in Edmonton Sun, April 7, 2012

Remember the bumper sticker from the ‘80s, “Please God, let there be another oil boom. I promise not to piss it all away the next time.” That, of course, was two booms ago.Now we are on the cusp, the very beginning of the third.We seem to be getting smarter at this, but not much.All the corporate talk at the downtown Ricky’s Grill in the mornings, at the Hardware Grill at lunch, is about the impending labour shortage.“Workforce, workforce, workforce,” says Edmonton Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Martin Salloum. “That’s all our members are talking about.”Driven by the global need for our clean oil, Northern Alberta is relentlessly growing. New oil extraction plants come on stream nearly every month in the oilsands. Conventional oil wells are resurrected thanks to new technology. Natural gas is readying for an inevitable recovery once it can be shipped to Asia and replaces coal in electricity generation.Brains and brawn are needed for all the above. Geologists to find the energy, engineers to design the in ... Read the rest of entry »

Why the Sorrentino's Garlic Festival is so successful on so many different levels

(This blog posting is a follow-up to the Weekly Dish column in the Edmonton Sun on Wednesday, April 4, 2012, entitled "Alberta's Garlic Advantage" in print, and "Garlic Festival an all-Alberta affair" in the on-line version) The Sorrentino’s Garlic Festival, in its 21st year, has become part of the very fabric of this city. And along the way, a textbook case of great marketing that should be thoroughly studied by any student of marketing and promotion. Most restaurants owners – 99% of them –lack the energy and imagination to separate themselves from the pack. It’s enough, they think, to simply open their doors, provide adequate service, good food and enough advertising to get by. Then there’s Sorrentino’s. Among their many other entrepreneurial strengths, Carmelo and Stella Rago understand the power of being different. Inspired by a world-famous garlic festival in California, Carmelo found the extra energy and extra effort to start that first Garlic Festival two deca ... Read the rest of entry »

Wanted: A simplified income tax system: Hicks on Biz column first published in the Edmonton Sun Sat. March 31, 2012

So it’s A) election time in Wild Rose country, B) budget time in Ottawa and C) tax time across the country.A time of ideas, of debate, of what government can and can’t do.But for heaven’s sake, the average Edmontonian keeps getting worked over!It’s about our wretched, overly complicated and deeply deceptive tax system.When the Income Tax Act was introduced in 1917, it was 11 pages long.Today, it’s 3,000 pages.Tax “credits” have crept a long, crept along.With every new government budget, a new tax credit is introduced for this, for that, for everything under the moon.Politicians love tax credits (or rebates, or deferrals, or deductions, or non-refundable tax credits, or allowable business expenses, machinery depreciation allowances, adjustments, QC or YET abatement, WITB, RDSP, UCC, CCA, SH&RD … ).Tax credits make’em look good. Here’s a tax credit for a bus pass, for your kid’s soccer fees, or a tax rebate if you buy an energy-efficient fridge. Vote for me!!!The corporate world and the politicians are hooked o ... Read the rest of entry »

Vive Cibo! Graham Hicks' Weekly Dish review of Cibo Bistro, first published in the Edmonton Sun, Wed. March 28, 2012

Imitation is the highest form of flattery. A standing Edmonton restaurant joke has to do with the weeks, if not months, one must wait for a reservation at Corso 32, Jasper Avenue’s tiny, contemporary Italian restaurant that earned a five out of five rating from this column. Three months ago, Cibo opened in the off-downtown Oliver Square (close to Hudson’s Pub). Obviously cousins Mike Giampa and Rosario Caputo were inspired by what  Daniel Costa was doing at Corso. They’re young, like Daniel, but hospitality veterans – Rosario as a NAIT-trained chef, Mike as a long-time server and maître d’. They grew up, like Daniel, in Edmonton’s thriving Italian culture, where good food is a way of life. Cibo (meaning food or nourishment in Italian)  is not only good. It’s excellent. It’s almost – almost – as good as Corso. Given how foodies genuflect at the mere mention of Corso, this is high praise. Cibo is most pleasing atmospherically. ... Read the rest of entry »

Complicated credit cards - what's the best deal? Hicks on Biz column originally published in the Edmonton Sun March 23, 2012

How complicated can credit-card comparisons get? It was a simple exercise in personal finances — I thought. Out of all those credit cards, those thousands of credit cards, which ones offer the best value for loyalty program points? Travel points are addictive. To qualify for trips, you end up packing every purchase possible onto your credit card. Which is what the credit card issuer wants. Even if you never pay a dime of interest, they collect a 1% to 3% fee from the merchant as a transaction fee. Complicated! To keep things simple, I only compared travel-point cards to travel-points cards, and cash-back cards to cash-back cards. At least I thought it would be simple. To calculate the value of travel-point cards, I'd measure the number of points needed for the equivalent of a seat sale to Vancouver, say $400 excluding taxes. And cash-back cards, what could be simpler? If you're packing $30,000 a year, or $2,500 a month onto your credit card, how much cash do you get back? (Assu ... Read the rest of entry »