Hicks on Biz: Save the downtown, the oilpatch and save us from city council BY GRAHAM HICKS, FIRST PUBLISHED EDMONTON SUN: November 2, 2017
Little stories that deserve to be bigger … save the downtown, the oil patch and clean coal, but save us from city council and misleading marketing!
Do buildings now depreciate as fast as cars?
In 1982, city council signed the death warrant on yet another historic Edmonton landmark. The historic Tegler Building came tumbling down so the Bank of Montreal (BMO) could construct a brand-new, glass-fronted regional headquarters in the heart of the downtown.
The handsome, seven-story Tegler Building, with its brick exterior and Woolworth’s on the main floor, was a mere 70 years old. Judging from older office buildings in older cities, it had plenty of life left in it.
Now the BMO building, only 33 years old (it opened in 1984), has a date with the wrecker’s ball.
The bank has downsized into the next-door, brand-new Enbridge Tower. Regency Developments intends to tear down the BMO building and build a mixed-use high-rise on the site.
The BMO building won’t be missed – its cold cavernous space felt like a mausoleum. Regency is a reputable local developer. It will build something attractive on the site.
Still, our downtown is losing its architectural and historical diversity. The pleasing look of smaller, older buildings between the monolithic towers is fast disappearing.
The good news is today’s new towers are more attractive than ever.
The bad news is they are still high-rises, piling up cheek-to-jowl to one another in the downtown.
NO MORE SUGAR PLUMS PLEASE!
How satisfying to hear fiscal sanity from newly elected north-central Ward 3 city councillor Jon Dziadyk.
Hold on, said Councillor Jon, as city council’s dreamers (Ben Henderson, Scott McKeen, Michael Walters) salivated over an “international design competition” for re-development of the Northlands site. Let’s take our time, cautioned Dziadyk, look for simple practical solutions, not spend millions on dreamy designs that never turn out as planned.
MARKETING RUN AMOK
The most righteous of not-for-profit organizations deliberately mislead us into opening their junk mail, making the envelopes look “official” – as if they were government notices or something of importance.
The Red Cross has been doing this for years … and now an organization for which I have the utmost respect – The Citadel Theatre – is sending flyers out in envelopes that, on first glance, imply something to do with your passport.
No innocent denials please. Marketing departments know exactly what they are doing.
SAVE THE WORLD, SAVE THE OILPATCH
It’s a good-news oil story that dogmatic, rigid, save-the-planet types refuse to hear.
Imperial Oil’s proposed new Aspen oilsands project, if approved, will cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25% compared to current underground extraction methods. The water currently needed would be replaced by recyclable solvents.
More proof that the global-warming can be thwarted with low-emission energy sources of ALL kinds, not only wind, solar and hydro. One hundred and forty thousand Alberta oilpatch jobs need not be sacrificed.
CAUGHT BETWEEN TWO MASTERS
Alberta’s three producers of coal-fired electricity don’t know where to turn.
TransAlta, ATCO and Capital Power produce low-cost electricity – 40% of Alberta’s total – from some of the world’s cleanest coal-burning plants.
The current provincial government has decided coal is bad, no more coal burning in Alberta, no matter the cost. In fact, the Alberta government is paying the three companies $100 million a year for the next 14 years to close relatively new coal plants before their time.
Jason Kenney, leader of the new United Conservative Party, advocates a radically different approach: Not an irrational phasing out of coal and our other carbon-based fuels, but cleaning them up – as this column has long advocated. The United Conservative Party could easily win the next provincial election 18 months from now.
So what’s an energy company to do? Go all out on “sustainable” but expensive power generation, i.e. build wind farms, solar, biomass etc. Or should they quietly plan, not for coal closure but for coal clean-up given the likelihood of a Kenney government come 2019?
And what about new environmental curve balls being thrown by Justin Trudeau’s federal government? What about the pricey hocus-pocus regarding “carbon offsets”?
These are huge investment choices that have to be made, investments that can make or break the companies in question. What do their CEOs do, when political winds keep shifting by the hour?