HicksBiz Blog

Hicks on Biz: The case for phase II of the Sturgeon Refinery BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, JUNE 02, 2017

It’s an odd situation. But we live in odd economic circumstances. Immediately firing up Phase II of the soon-to-open Sturgeon Refinery outside Fort Saskatchewan will require a massive provincial government commitment. This in a province that since Ralph Klein days has liked the notion of government staying out of business. But this commitment, in the long run, makes sense. And despite Ralph’s proclamation, previous Conservative governments have already substantially invested in Phase I of the new refinery. Now the New Democrat government is being asked to do the same for Phase II. The downside is minimal: In a worst-case scenario, the government could lose money for periods of time. The upside is substantial: In the long run, the province is highly likely to make good profits (see below). Major construction jobs - 5,000 to 8,000 of them – could be created over the next four years when little else is happening; Fabrication shops and other sub-contractors would be kept bus ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Future is now for Edmonton innovators BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, MAY 26, 2017

Everybody moans and groans about Alberta’s economy being too dependent on oil, coal and gas. Everybody keeps talking as if “diversification” and “innovation” are things of the future. But there are names they should know: Ceapro. Radiant. Localize and Forge Hydrocarbons and Magnet Tx and Alberta Craft Malting, and on and on and on. The list of Metropolitan Edmonton companies keeps growing. Mayor Don Iveson gave his state-of-the-city speech at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Wednesday. It was – as befits a mayor still in his 30s – a rousing speech about Edmonton’s spirit of invention and culture of innovation. But always as if it’s around the corner, still to be grabbed, not here yet. They are here! They are today! Economic development people, without realizing it, tend to describe a bleak present but paint a rosy future, providing, of course that their agencies are funded and that they are paid. Business Link, Startup Edmonton, TEC E ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks Weekly Dish: Privada offers intriguing cuisine, and best dessert around BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, MAY 23, 2017

A television hangs over the bar, but instead of blaring play-off hockey, scenic nature photographs quietly rotate.   In one corner of Privada Wine and Tapas in St. Albert, big jars of kitchen-made preserves jostle for room with the restaurant’s fine wine collection. Bunches of garlic dangle above. It may sound eccentric, but Privada is anything but. It’s actually a pleasing mixture of the personalities and talents of its hands-on owners – the husband/wife team of Kaylen and Kaylan Como and Chef Tony Krause, plus the community Privada serves. The menu of $12 to $18 dishes is familiar, comforting, yet different. It changes by the week. Krause is a restless, passionate chef. There were reasons for visiting Privada. My wife and I had just returned from a walking holiday in Portugal and Spain. Tapas dishes were still dancing in our memories. Privada has been a St. Albert gem for some five years; it’s been contentedly low-key, at least until Krause was invited to compe ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Pot has been popular for a while BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, APRIL 21, 2017

Marijuana is rushing out of the closet, what with the federal government’s plan to legalize marijuana use across Canada as of July 2018. Which is somewhat ironic: Pot has been almost as common as booze, smoked by a sizeable minority of Canadians since getting high became popular 50 years ago. The fact it’s been illegal just made users more secretive. In British Columbia, pot might as well be legal now. Dozens upon dozens of “medical” marijuana dispensaries are in Vancouver, with no common definition of what medical means. If you have a headache, you can buy pot. I’d argue Albertans still prefer alcohol over pot for recreational highs. Pot smokers here keep it quiet. Outside of certain crowds, joints aren’t passed around parties. Rarely do you smell pot, outside of Borden Park love-ins. But many Vancouver friends treat the stuff as an aperitif before dinner. They are used to a THC level – the stuff that creates the high – that would have induced a ... Read the rest of entry »


Alta 10328 Jasper Ave 780-244-3635 altayeg.ca   Food: 4.5 of 5 Suns Service: 4 of 5 Suns Ambience: 4 Suns 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Closed Sundays and Mondays Dinner for two, excluding drinks– Basic $40, loaded $80. (Alta is a no-tipping establishment) At long last, Chef Ben Staley is back on the scene. In 2014, Chef Staley created a stir during his 10 month stint as chef at North 53 restaurant.  His was a menu like no other, going far beyond the obligatory “local” and “sustainable” to new dishes using local ingredients in utterly unforeseen ways.   “Every dish at North 53 is unique, a creation unto itself,” I wrote in this column at the time, “tastes, textures, food combinations and presentations  leave you with unabashed admiration for this kitchen.” Staley left North 53 in the fall of 2014 to open his own restaurant. Thirty months later, that dream has finally been realized. Alta opened its doors la ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Growth in electric cars will come, but only with heavy government intervention BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, APRIL 14, 2017

Electric cars are coming. In this part of the world, with our cold weather, three hours driving time to the next big city and inexpensive gasoline, electric vehicles will come later. We’ll be many years behind California, where, thanks to government subsidies and incentives, every major auto-maker now has a fully electric car on the market.  The biggest barrier to electric cars is about to come crashing down. Industry buzz says the next generation of electric cars – specifically the Chevy Bolt EV (Electric Vehicle) and the Tesla Model 3 will represent price breakthroughs to the $30,000 US range, with batteries that will double the current 160 to 200 kilometre range of electric vehicles. (One current EV, the Tesla Model S, has a 320 to 530 kilometre range.) Which sounds like the era of fossil fuels is drawing to a close. Prepare ye the end of the Alberta economy as we know it. HOWEVER … there are multiple reasons why Edmonton car dealerships only sell, if they’re l ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks Weekly Dish: Sorrentino's annual garlic festival BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, APRIL 11, 2017

Sorrentino’s 26th Annual Garlic Festival April 2 to April 30, 2017 Downtown – 10162-100 St. – 780 424 7500 South – 4208 Calgary Trail – 780 434 7607 West – 6867 170 St. – 780 444 0524 Little Italy – 10844 95 St. – 780 425 0960 Stony Plain – 108 Genesis Drive – 780-591-2121 Bistecca Italian Steakhouse – 2345 111 St. – 780 439 7335 Food: 4 of 5 stars Ambience: 4 of 5 stars Service: 4 of 5 stars   At least 15 years ago, at the lively reception that always kicks off the Sorrentino’s Garlic Festival, Sorrentino’s Carmelo Rago and I retreated to a corner to enjoy our wine. “This festival has sure worked out,” I said to Carmelo. “But how long can you keep this garlic theme going?” “I’m thinking the same thing,” said the always restless Carmelo. “What’s next?” There was no next! So many good things – a puppy licking your cheek, ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks on Biz: Labour laws in play BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: FRIDAY, APRIL 07, 2017

It’s not like it’s unexpected. Two years ago, Alberta shocked the nation by electing the province’s first ever left-of-centre, union-biased government. That the Notley government hasn’t yet reformed and revised Alberta’s labour laws to conform with its views on workers’ rights, i.e. unionization, has purely been a matter of priority. Here it comes, folks. There’s nothing official, other than an innocuous workplace legislation review questionnaire on the Alberta Labour website. But labour and business circles are abuzz with rumours that much, much more is about to come down the pike from this government. Major labour law changes: Like an end to secret ballots for union certification, no more replacement workers during strikes and compulsory arbitration of some labour disputes. The rumoured changes, depending on your point of view, could either give Alberta’s workers a better deal through unionization, or represent yet another blow to Alberta& ... Read the rest of entry »

Peter and The Starcatcher at the Citadel Theatre: Give me time to laugh! Theatre review by GRAHAM HICKS

Peter and the Starcatcher Citadel Theatre, Maclab Stage, Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA April 1 – 23, 2017 Tickets - $30 and up Review by GRAHAM HICKS,  hicksbiz.com Call it a qualified success. The Citadel Theatre’s version of the 2012 Broadway hit Peter and the Starcatcher is full of fun, friendliness, theatrical invention, imagination, silly puns, song, dance, vaudeville, panto, slapstick and so on. But the show – based on a book that is another author’s prequel to the classic Peter Pan – is just too frantic, trying just too darned hard to squeeze a monster into a mere two hours. The 14 actors each have a main character, and they all perform multiple other characters. The show dashes from scene to scene – in the first half, on board the two sailing ships the H.M.S. Neverland and H.M.S. Wasp somewhere in the late 19th Century when Britannia ruled the waves, in the second half on the mythical island that will become Neverland. The theatrical challenge is a ... Read the rest of entry »

Hicks Weekly Dish: Grandin Fish 'N' Chips - Fish ’n’ chips done right BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: WEDNESDAY, APRIL 05, 2017

Grandin Fish ‘N’ Chips 9902 109 St. 780-250-3474 Grandinfish.ca 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday to Saturday No reservations Food: 4 of 5 Suns Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns Service: 3.5 of 5 stars Plenty of fast food outlets offer fish ’n’ chips, but the batter usually drips oil like a rusting car, the fish is mushy, the French fries from a bag and the ambience as charming as an aging fastfood court. In the years I’ve called Edmonton home, only once have I experienced the very best of fish ’n’ chips, being a special-of-the-day at Beaumont’s charming Franco-Albertan Chartier restaurant. Until now: With the opening of the Grandin Fish ’n’ Chips shop on 109 Street just north of the High Level Bridge, a glorious new era of fish ’n’ chips has dawned. The new shop is clean, sunny and well-ventilated, with some 40 seats. The decoration and décor is whimsical and appropriately Maritime themed. The open kitchen is superb. It&rs ... Read the rest of entry »