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Category: Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Hicks on Biz: Plan to End Homelessness a Success BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, MARCH 31, 2017

Whichever way you look at it – financial, moral, compassionate – the city-led, mostly provincially funded 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness launched by then-Mayor Steve Mandel in 2009 has been a success. You can look at numbers until your brain is spinning, but a few big ones stand out. Since 2009, Homeward Trust – the umbrella organization coordinating housing and social programs in Edmonton for the homeless – says 6,000 formerly homeless individuals have been housed. Two-thirds of those helped were considered to be chronically without shelter. The annual 2016 Homeless Count – the best measurement available – was 1,752 people. The 2014 count was about 2,170. The count in 2008 was about 2,500. Had no action been taken, the 2009 report suggests the homeless count could have jumped to 8,500 by 2018. Many tax dollars have been spent on this effort. Homeward Trust’s 2015 budget was $44.6 million for building new housing units, rent subsidies and social progr ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Alberta and Canada debt problems? Depends on who you ask BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, MARCH 24, 2017

A hurricane of numbers has descended upon us, as both the Alberta and federal governments announced their 2017/18 budgets in the past two weeks — i.e. their anticipated (i.e. hopeful, optimistic, ideal) spending and expected revenues for the next 12 months. I often think the parties in power simply throw out as many numbers as possible, so we will give up on trying to make sense of anything. But two numbers — two measurements — can tell us how we are doing economically as a province and as a nation. One is the gloom and doom, fiscal-conservative number — the debt-per-capita. The other is the why-worry measurement used by free-spending governments to justify their spending — the debt-to-GDP (Gross Domestic Product) ratio. Right now, the Alberta New Democrats and the federal Liberals are tossing the province and the country into big-time debt. On a debt-per-capita basis, the numbers are terrifying. Formerly debt free (thanks to oil and gas revenues), Alberta&rs ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: CRNL deal with Shell a good thing BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, MARCH 17, 2017

All eyes are focused on the Alberta 2017/18 provincial budget – the spending side of the equation. But good news is happening in the oil and gas sector – where most of the money comes from. This is a tad ironic. According to the headlines, the sky is falling on the oilsands. A few months ago, international energy giants ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips announced a $4.4-billion write-down in the value of their oilsand reserves (the value of oil still in the ground). The sky is falling! Earlier this week, oil giant Royal Dutch Shell announced it was leaving the oilsands, selling its Athabasca Oilsands (Albian) mine, the Scotford upgrader and smaller oilsands holdings to Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL) for $12.7 billion. Locally, Shell will continue to own Redwater’s Scotford refinery alongside the upgrader, and will continue to operate both plants. The sky is falling! All the world players who piled into the oilsands from 1990 to 2014 are getting out! Whoa! The write-d ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Looking forward to the Indigenous People’s Experience BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, MARCH 10, 2017

My wife and I are off to Winnipeg for a few days this summer. We’ll visit relatives and see the city. But our primary motivation will be visiting the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Opened in 2014, the museum cost $350 million. It is already a civic icon. Think of Winnipeg and you think of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Blue Bombers, the Jets and now the human rights museum. Maria and I will spend about $1,000 on airfare, accommodations, meals, getting around and admissions. Winnipeg Tourism will love us – proof tourist dollars are flowing into Winnipeg thanks to the museum. That’s why I am so excited, in so many ways, about the now fully-funded $42 million Indigenous People’s Experience exhibit to be built at Fort Edmonton Park. The exhibit will be the crown jewel of a $150-million upgrade (a three-way split between the Edmonton, Alberta and federal governments) to our top historical attraction. Fort Edmonton’s aging utilities will be overhauled and other inter ... Read the rest of entry »

HICKS on BIZ: Alberta has to clean up its environmental act BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, MARCH 03, 2017

So here we go, folks. The Notley government’s Climate Leadership package has descended upon us. Your home heating bill has a new carbon levy charge. Your price per litre of gasoline now has a 5 cent a litre carbon levy built in. Environment Minister Shannon Phillips has announced the broad outlines of a $645-million program (over five years) to promote energy efficiency in Alberta homes and businesses. About $36 million is being made available this year to subsidize home solar panel installation, and $21.5 million for free home upgrades for energy-efficient products. At the mega-level, i.e. in the billions, this government has decided to eat all the costs of a long-term deal with utility companies to get rid of coal in the current 2016-17 budget. That decision adds another billion dollars to a provincial deficit now predicted to hit $10.8 billion by the end of March. There’s no middle ground. Either you are all for this kind of government spending for the greater good, or you are ag ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Viewtrak - Making lemonade from lemons BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2017

One door closes. Another opens. Every cloud has its silver lining. Should life hand you lemons, make lemonade. Ted Power and Hubert Lau, co-presidents of Edmonton-based Viewtrak Technologies, specialize in making lemonade out of lemons. In 2012, the two businessmen were asked by a group of Alberta investors to manage Viewtrak, a livestock tracing company created in the aftermath of the mad cow disease crisis internationally and then in Canada in 2003. Viewtrak had since run into financial difficulty. Last year, Viewtrak was named Exporter of the Year by the Alberta Business Awards of Distinction for its PG-207 pork grader probe – a best-seller in China. The company is a finalist for the 2017 Small Business of the Year in the same awards, and was just named Innovator of the Year at the Canada-wide 2017 Air Miles Small Business Achievement Awards. Before Viewtrak, Power’s business expertise was in traceability. His Trace Applications company is a leading supplier of traceability pr ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: The good, the bad and the spending BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2017

Keeping tabs on government spending around our fair city … Bringing Mill Creek back to the surface is a wonderful idea. It now dips underground (between the Connors Road/Scona Road split) and flows into the North Saskatchewan as if it were a sewer outlet. But then the dreamers come in with lakes, parks, restaurants and sugar plums … “not over $100 million,” says one hopeful advocate. *** Fort Edmonton Park needs $70 million worth of infrastructure upgrades just to keep the toilets flushing. So that’s a necessary expenditure. The proposed $42 million Indigenous People’s Experiences Interpretive Centre at Fort Edmonton is a good investment too … if it truly brings international and national tourists to Edmonton who’d otherwise not come. Mayor Don Iveson was suggesting a few months back that the soon-to-be-vacant old Provincial Museum building could be redeveloped into yet another Indigenous People’s showcase. What’s another $100 milli ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Government should do away with grants BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 03, 2017

We the general public are like sheep, our wool unceremoniously shorn year after year for use by others. Not for the greater good – not for those truly needing help, but for groups and individuals who don’t need our money. It’s not the government, but government as conduit. Governments pass along your tax money to others in the form of grants (or tax credits, which are grants by another name). But the people getting those grants - in businesses, not-for-profit organizations, or individuals – don’t need your money any more than you do. They’re just smarter! They figure out where the money is, and they go get it! They research government programs, figure out how to apply for whatever grants are on offer, pay a professional grant-writer to write the application, and bingo, wind up with a $10,000, $50,000, $100,000, $10,000,000 grant! There are literally hundreds of government-sponsored, grant-giving agencies - Emissions Reduction Alberta, Sustainable Developme ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Bed-Blockers remain a problem for Alberta hospitals BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: THURSDAY, JANUARY 26, 2017

It’s a chronic problem that never seems to go away. The term “bed-blockers” is no longer used, but the issue remains. At any given time, around 400 hospital beds in Alberta (one-third in Edmonton) are taken up by bed-ridden seniors waiting for placement in long-term care/nursing home/assisted-living facilities. The wait times aren’t readily available from Alberta Health Services, but in some Ontario hospitals, the wait time has grown longer and longer, from an average 18 days in 2004 to 69 days today. The cost per patient per day in Alberta hospitals is $1,500 per day. Long-term institutional care cost is $100 to $200 per day. The NDP government is fulfilling an election promise to create 2,000 more long-term care beds by 2019, with $500 million committed to date. The cost to the health care system won’t drop – those hospital beds will be filled the moment they are vacated. But with beds freed up, horrific emergency room wait times could be reduced. It’s a para ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on biz: Innovation means fewer jobs BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: THURSDAY, JANUARY 19, 2017

The Old Guys’ Drinking Club had gathered, as usual, in a neighbourhood pub. The conversation turned, as usual, to incoming American President Donald Trump. At least give him a chance, I ventured to opine into a sea of scorn for the new American president. Let’s see if Trump can deliver on his promise to bring back jobs exported by American companies to lower-cost countries like China, Mexico and India. “No way,” said the high-tech business man sipping on his scotch. “The man is not only a sexist, racist buffoon, but any new jobs in America, repatriated or not, will be automated. “Trump isn’t going to create jobs – those jobs are gone. They are being done by robots or AI (artificial intelligence).” Therein lies the rub. Alberta has been focused on the job losses in the oil patch, which, the New Democrat government assures us, will be offset by government-encouraged new jobs in a new, diverse economy. Our challenge is more than simple jo ... Read the rest of entry »
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