Q&A: Patrick Dovigi, the NHL-goalie-turned-entrepreneur who won Toronto’s lucrative garbage contract
Your company, Green for Life, has multi-million-dollar contracts in Oshawa, Whitby and Hamilton—and now one for 165,000 homes from Yonge Street west to Etobicoke. Not bad for a 32-year-old.
I guess I’ve done well. I just bought a place in Forest Hill.
So you’ll be collecting your own garbage.
Yep. My neighbours are already hounding me to see if they can put out extra bags.
Tell us about your bid. The city currently collects at a yearly cost of $166 per household. You say you can do it for $106. Are people wrong to think your numbers are too good to be true?
They’re 100 per cent wrong. We had 20 people researching this contract for 10 weeks. We followed every city truck that left every yard, noted when they started and counted how many houses they visited, what time they got back in and where they dumped their loads.
And what did you see?
Each truck was collecting from a maximum of 675 houses a day. In Hamilton, my employees collect from up to 930 houses a day in the same amount of time.
So the city employees are slackers?
You can’t blame them. They’re only asked to collect from that many houses.
So is your bid cheap because you work your employees that much harder?
No, our system is more efficient. We use a two-driver team, so they can alternate driving and collecting every half-hour, and they don’t get tired as fast. Also, our trucks can fit more garbage—32 yards to the city’s 25 yards—so they can visit more houses before unloading. And we fuel our trucks at night, so our drivers can just jump in and go at 7 a.m. The city tends to fuel in the mornings, so the last trucks aren’t on the road until 9 a.m.
You gave $1,000 to Rob Ford’s campaign. How do you think he’s done so far?
I think his model is correct. He firmly believes that the private sector can be more efficient than the public sector. I think some services should be privatized and some shouldn’t, but he’s hitting on the ones where he sees the most waste.
What’s a common misunderstanding about the waste management business?
That it’s mafia-owned. People like to think it’s like an episode of The Sopranos. Given my last name, there’s been some suspicion.
Long before you were a trash magnate, you were a star goalie with your sights set on the NHL. How close did you get?
The Edmonton Oilers drafted me 41st overall, but I never really made it beyond the minors.
Who was the best player to score on you?
Pavel Bure made me look pretty stupid.
There’s a clip of you online pummelling another goalie. You could throw a punch.
Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
After hockey, you studied business management at Ryerson, then worked with Kiss frontman Gene Simmons. What’s the story there?
Gene wanted to make an uncensored TV channel called No Good TV. We’d air uncut videos that couldn’t play on regular TV. I was a director.
What’s it like to hang out with Gene?
There are always lots of girls with him, but I’m not sure how many you’d want to take home to Mom.
No Good TV filed for bankruptcy. What went wrong?
Advertising. Corporate America didn’t want to be associated with people swearing and taking their tops off.
Speaking of bankruptcy: if Green for Life implodes, is the city screwed?
No. We put up a $17-million bond, plus a $4-million letter of credit, which is basically cash. But we’ll do a good job. Otherwise my neighbours will be all over me.