Filling the Pointy End

Monday was a great day for the Edmonton Region. After three weeks of rumors swirling around the city, Edmonton International Airport (YEG) was delighted to announce a new non-stop flight to Amsterdam (AMS) beginning May 5th 2015, operated by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

This is good news.

Tremendous work goes into securing direct flights for the region, spearheaded by CEO Tom Ruth and his team at EIA in tight coordination with Mayor Don Iveson’s office, the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, the Province of Alberta, Travel Alberta, Leduc County and our Edmonton Tourism and Enterprise Edmonton teams at EEDC.

Common Objective. Unified Voice.

Businesses can move people, goods and ideas faster to markets around the globe as a result of direct air access, and tourists can flow back and forth between destinations. Amsterdam was identified by Edmontonians as one of the most effective hubs into Europe, Africa and the Middle East … and it was delivered for your benefit.

Now, it is your turn.

There are three parts to every airplane – the pointy end (business class), the back end (economy class) and the underbelly (cargo) – all of which combine to determine the yield (return) on each flight. I never gave this too much thought, until I started understanding what it takes to secure new routes … and most importantly, what it takes to keep the routes we work so hard to secure.

And, our businesses have a big role to play.

If we don’t fill the pointy end of the plane … the business class … and we don’t ship our products from Edmonton International Airport … the cargo … then direct flights will be near impossible to maintain by travelers simply going to Expedia and clicking on the cheapest fare.

So, here’s what I’m asking you to do this week in your business:

– Explore whether you are trucking products to other airports before they head overseas;
– Explore whether you have a “fly economy” policy on international flights; and
– Explore whether you have a “direct flights first” policy that helps support your community.

This is a simple, but profoundly important request, folks. I respect that we are still living in the residue of extreme frugalness due to certain people abusing public funds … but we actually need to step up our commitment to these new direct flights in order to continue to build an economy of competitiveness and prosperity.

Play your part. You have an important role.

Thank you.

Drunk on Dependence

There’s nothing like a good market meltdown and commodity collapse to get people talking about our economic stability. Oh wait, we’re not talking about it … at least not yet.

Six years ago, the price of oil went from $140 to $40 in six months. We seem stunned and aghast when our budget forecasts didn’t materialize, although history shows that predicting the price of oil is harder than predicting a winning lottery number. Blame it on a Bitumen Bubble. Blame it on the Middle East. Blame it on the USA commercializing our fracking technologies. Blame it on our lack of diversification. Blame it on us being landlocked. Blame it on our economists. Blame it on whoever or whatever you want.

I blame our budget instability squarely on our dependence on resource royalties, our unstable revenue model and our inability to plan properly for the future.

Yes, the future. Our current taxation policy is punishing future generations … the generation who will look back on our era and ask, “Grandpa, do you think it was smart to spend all the non-renewable resource revenues on yourselves every year, without asking people to pay for things they were using?”

To which I will likely respond, “Hey, it was a really good party until the free booze ran out. In fact, we invited all our friends from other provinces to the party and didn’t charge them either. But the liquor cabinet’s bare now, so why don’t you get to work and start replenishing it? ‘Cause your grandpa needs another drink … Remember who built this great province, dammit!”

Over the past two years we have had two economic summits where some of the best and brightest had the courage to call for stability in our revenue line. At the same time, Jack Mintz presented a revenue-neutral plan to eliminate personal income tax for 70% of Albertans and lower corporate taxes to the lowest in Canada, while implementing an 8% consumption (sales) tax. The Alberta Advantage was being talked about. The Alberta Advantage was almost within grasp.

Shhh … crickets.

How do you legislate a balanced budget without control over your revenue line? How do you provide long-term predictable funding for schools, universities, hospitals and municipalities without a long-term predictable revenue model?

It’s time to slay the dragon. It’s time to lose the historical pride of “we’re the only province without a sales tax” and start managing the province for our future generations.

Or do we not need to worry about them?

“Ahhh, don’t worry, oil at $80 is simply a dip. It’ll come back? Hey Boy, get over here and pour your old granddad another drink, dammit.”

The 200 Year Curse

Curse of Abundance
Many people believe we live in a world of abundance.
I believe abundance is a temporary state.

“The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; From spiritual faith to great courage; From courage to freedom; From freedom to abundance; From abundance to selfishness; From selfishness to complacency; From complacency to apathy; From apathy to fear; From fear to dependence; From dependence back into bondage.”
– Alexander Fraser Tytler or Henning W. Prentis, Jr. (unverified)

Curse of Democracy
Many people find history boring.
I find historical cycles highly fascinating and strangely predictable.

“Democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.”
– Alexander Fraser Tytler or Henning W. Prentis Jr. (unverified)

Are We Smart Enough?

Complacency is a dangerous disease. It’s forever affected General Motors, Kodak, Microsoft and Blockbuster. And it is a widespread addiction amongst Alberta companies.


Because things are good. Why change? Why invest? Why try harder … when you can just sit back and enjoy the prosperity that comes from underlying economic growth?

Look at your own organization. Look at yourself. What are you investing in today that will allow you to reap dividends in 2-3 years or 5-7 years?

These are important questions, and they are the questions every Albertan should be asking every day. They are the questions that we will explore at E-Town ( next week, and it is important that you invite yourself to the conversation. Here’s why (true stories from the past week):

Me: Is your team coming to e-town this year?
CEO: It looks fabulous, but we’re too busy working too hard.
Me: Is working harder your competitive advantage?
CEO: Ummm … shut up.

Employee: I’d like to attend e-town this year. It only costs only $399.
Boss: What will you learn?
Employee: Technology, leadership and creativity trends affecting our business.
Boss: I don’t think those are our priorities right now.

Do these stories sound familiar? Are we simply trying to win by working harder? Or is it time we start thinking about competing by being smarter than your competition? One of our speakers, Estelle Metayer, focuses solely on this topic, and I’m probably looking forward to her session the most.


Because it strikes at the heart of our economic future. And you can’t afford to miss it.

Register yourself and your employees at

Thank you.