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Category: Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

Hicks on Biz columns from The Edmonton Sun

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 »

Hicks on Biz: Cold Lake an example of Alberta pain BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, AUGUST 04, 2017 08:58 AM

“The environmental agenda has hijacked Alberta’s resource industry and our politicians,” wrote Craig Copeland, one of many readers responding to last week’s Hicks on Biz column entitled “Alberta’s economic suicide.” “It gained traction in the early 2000s but has escalated lately with the new provincial and federal governments,” Copeland continued, “even though Alberta already had some of the strictest industrial environmental policies in the world. I fear we could be witnessing one of the greatest economic tragedies in Canadian history.” Just another redneck opinion to be ignored, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and her advisers would likely say. The current New Democrat government appears to put a higher priority on its climate change action plan than on the dismal state of the provincial economy, everywhere other than Edmonton. Copeland, however, is no redneck. He’s the long-time mayor of Cold Lake, one of Alberta’s more ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Alberta’s economic suicide BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED Edmonton Sun: SATURDAY, JULY 29, 2017

Will Albertans continue to sit on our hands and do nothing while national and provincial politicians - goaded by a vocal minority - plunge this province, and all Canada for that matter, into what is politely termed "de-industrialization" but ought to be called economic suicide? Are desperately needed new pipelines to carry the lifeblood of the Canadian economy - oil and gas - never to be built? Earlier this week, any thought of exporting Canadian liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Asia died when the proposed $36 billion Pacific NorthWest LNG project was declared dead by its principal backer, Malaysia's Petronas oil company. Goaded by environmental groups, Canadian governments piled delay upon regulatory delay upon this and other major energy projects. By the time the NorthWest LNG project was actually approved, Asian demand for natural gas was being met by Australian and American LNG exporters. Canadian LNG is considered no longer economically viable on world markets. The companies and the investors behi ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Local bakery grows into gluten-free juggernaut BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, JULY 21, 2017

How did a tiny Old Strathcona bakery become North America’s second-biggest producer of gluten-free baked goods? Ten semi-trailers a week roll out of Kinnikinnick Foods’ mega-bakery just off the Yellowhead Trail, bound for 65 distribution warehouses and 15,000 grocery stores.  Simultaneously, Kinnikinnick loads its gluten-free bread, cookies, donuts, buns and bagels onto giant pallets heading to Europe on KLM’s non-stop flight to Amsterdam. A distributor whisks the pallets to Kinnikinnick’s British distribution centre.  An Internet-sales office handles online orders, ensuring quick delivery the world over. How did Kinnikinnick overcome distance-to-market and labour costs?  How did the company succeed in a world of highly competitive corporate food giants?  It currently has 160 employees and grosses over $25 million a year in sales.   Why does it make all its products in Edmonton? Why hasn’t the Bigam family cashed out and sold Kinnikinnic ... Read the rest of entry »

HICKS ON BIZ Alberta's oil and gas industry faced with contradiction BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, JULY 07, 2017

Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Who’s on first? What’s on second? Are you not perplexed when thinking about Alberta’s oil and gas industry? How many contradictions can we come up with?  How many differing “expert” opinions can be expressed about environmental impact, world oil demand, and the future of gasoline/diesel-fueled transport? WORLD DEMAND FOR OIL The media is flooded with stories about the impending electrification of automobile engines. Volvo made headlines by announcing every vehicle it makes after 2019 will be either hybrid gas/electric powered or all-electric. Tesla’s every move is a front-page story. At the same time, world demand for oil has gone from 80 million barrels a day in 2010 to an expected 100 million barrels a day in 2018. Who’s on first? The overall world outlook for oil suggests a moderating of the year-over-year growth in demand for oil/natural gas, but certainly not a serious slowdown or decline in demand. ... Read the rest of entry »

HICKS ON BIZ Alberta's oil and gas industry faced with contradiction BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, JULY 07, 2017

Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Who’s on first? What’s on second? Are you not perplexed when thinking about Alberta’s oil and gas industry? How many contradictions can we come up with?  How many differing “expert” opinions can be expressed about environmental impact, world oil demand, and the future of gasoline/diesel-fueled transport? WORLD DEMAND FOR OIL The media is flooded with stories about the impending electrification of automobile engines. Volvo made headlines by announcing every vehicle it makes after 2019 will be either hybrid gas/electric powered or all-electric. Tesla’s every move is a front-page story. At the same time, world demand for oil has gone from 80 million barrels a day in 2010 to an expected 100 million barrels a day in 2018. Who’s on first? The overall world outlook for oil suggests a moderating of the year-over-year growth in demand for oil/natural gas, but certainly not a serious slowdown or decline in demand. ... Read the rest of entry »

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 »
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