HicksBiz Blog

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 weekly dish: Swiss 2 GO BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, JULY 19, 2016

Swiss 2 GO 4306 118 Ave. 587-520-9400 www.swiss2go.ca Food: 5 of 5 Suns Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns Tues. to Sat. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed Mondays Dinner for two (without tip or beverages): Basic, $20; fully loaded, $35   I’m all for the Denny’s, Joey or McDonald’s of this world – may a thousand flowers flourish – but what a joy to find another small, independent restaurant off the beaten track, offering home-cooking excellence that the chains simply can’t touch. You have to drive down 118th Avenue almost to the Beverly Bridge to find Drita Keller’s Swiss 2 GO sandwich shop at the corner of 42nd Street. You’d never know from the outside that Swiss 2 GO makes the city’s best sandwiches, even better than the hipster sandwich boutiques of Farrow, Sandwich & Sons, the Nate Box group and Local Omnivore. You’d never know, except there’s one big clue: The exterior of Swis ... 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 Weekly Dish: It’ All Korean Buffet BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, JULY 05, 2016

It’ All Korean Buffet 10023 107 Ave. 780-705-9953 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. six days a week Closed Tuesdays Food: 4 of 5 Suns Ambience: 3 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns   Dinner for two: Excluding drinks and tip, a la carte or buffet, $40.   There’s probably not a more delicious, filling meal for the price in all Edmonton.   It’ All Korean Buffet, just south of the original Brick Warehouse at 101 Street and 107 Avenue, has recently made some major changes – going to a 90% Korean menu from the previous Japanese and Korean, slashing its all-you-can-eat buffet price to $19.95 for dinner and $14.99 for lunch.   The a-la-carte menu, from which our party of seven dined, was bargain-priced at $10 to $12 a dish. We shared about 14 dishes, with a total price (excluding drinks and tip of course) of about $20 each.   At those low prices, you steel yourself for low quality – tougher gristle-filled meat, linge ... 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 weekly dish: First-rate food at The Juniper Cafe BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, JUNE 28, 2016

Juniper Café & Bistro 9514 87 St. 780-490-6799 Juniperbistro.com Tues. + Wed. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fri. + Sat. 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sun. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed Mondays Food: 4 of 5 Suns Ambience: 3 of 5 Suns Service: 3 of 5 Suns Dinner for two:  Excluding drinks and tip, basic $25; loaded, $50. I love independent cafes full of personality, where the owner genuinely cares about the neighbourhood he or she serves, who makes the dining area his/her living room, who serves as the barista, cook and bottle-washer. Think of the Woodrack Café on 109 Street and 76 Avenue, McKernan-Belgravia’s Gracious Goods Café, or the Blues Java Bar tucked away in Gold Bar, where Leah from Ghana is mother to all. Add another to this limited list of community builders. Strathearn’s Juniper Café & Bistro — turn left at the crest of Connors Road, angle down 95 Avenue about seven blocks — is a neighbourhood gathering spot complete with a children&rsqu ... 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: Cost-competitive refineries can be built in Alberta BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, JUNE 17, 2016

In the 2008 provincial election, then-Premier Ed Stelmach pushed hard for processing more Fort McMurray bitumen in the province, exporting finished refinery products like diesel and gasoline. Steady Eddie likened the export of bitumen to "scraping off the top soil" from Alberta farmland instead of growing crops. It never happened. A small portion of our total bitumen production is turned into gasoline and diesel fuels at local refineries for the Western Canadian market, but over 90% of the 2.5 million barrels of bitumen produced every day is pipelined to big upgrader/refinery operations in the USA. Original thinker Ian MacGregor, chair and CEO of the $8.5 billion Sturgeon Refinery now being built north of Fort Saskatchewan, says the entire equation is ready to be turned upside down. It’s now economically feasible, he says, for Alberta to process and refine its bitumen hydrocarbons here, emission-free to boot. MacGregor seems to be the only powerful guy in the oil patch who’s incorporat ... Read the rest of entry »
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