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Portable toilet business thriving with low loonie

Bob Davidson, in Drumheller, Alta., joined Suhana Meharchand on Checkup to talk about his garbage bin and portable toilet business that is thriving in this economy.
Portable toilets in Christchurch, NZ. (Tim Wimborne/Reuters)

Over the past few months the loonie has been sliding down in value, in relation to the U.S. dollar. For some that means significant economic losses, but for others it means that their business is growing. Bob Davidson runs a portable toilet and garbage bin rental business in Drumheller, Alta. Thanks to a surge American film companies shooting in Canada, his business is thriving.

Listen to Bob Davidson's interview with Checkup guest host, Suhana Meharchand.

Bob Davidson, in Drumheller, A.B., joined Suhana Meharchand on Checkup to talk about his garbage disposal and portable toilet business that is thriving in this economy. 4:03

Suhana Meharchand: How is the low loonie affecting you, sir?

Bob Davidson: I'm 59 years old. I came out of Ontario 35 years ago and have been in Drumheller ever since. I rent portable toilets and garbage bins. The movie industry is going to pick up a bit with this low loonie, and I've seen it already in 2015 with toilets and bins. The Americans are coming up here to spend their money, so that's great for me.

But, I have a lot of friends who have lost their jobs—my age or younger—with the oil industry. I see some are hurting, while others are not. Drumheller, Brooks, Medicine Hat, if you drive around the industrial areas, you see all the buildings but no trucks out in front of them. It's sad that way.

SM: One of the things about the film industry is that it doesn't turn on a dime. Doesn't it take months for a film production to ramp up and pick a location? Are you going to see an up tick quickly?

BD: I've seen in the Calgary paper a lot these big expectations for 2016 in the Drumheller area and I've been getting a lot of calls already.

SM: What does it cost to outfit a film location with portable toilets?

BD: The big thing is the drive. They're out in remote areas and you need 4-wheel drive to go up and down those hills. The movie people—a lot of them have their black shiny shoes on—they sit in an office and they say, "You can drive down there." And I say, "I'm not driving down there. Are you going to pay for my truck when it gets wrecked?" I charge lots by the hour to get things done.

You said the film industry doesn't turn on a dime, but they change their program every 20 minutes and say, "We want thing here, we want things there." And I just have to laugh so I charge a lot.

SM: That's got to be frustrating but it must feel good in your wallet.

BD: Oh my wallet is just fine.

SM: Have you noticed any other effects in your home or community?

BD: I also move farm machinery into the U.S. and the Americans will spend $400,000 for a used piece of equipment. With their exchange rate it's a phenomenal deal for them, and I can't keep up with the demand.

SM: You're a lucky guy, Bob.

Bob Davidson's and Suhana Meharchand's comments have been edited and condensed.

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