Canadian news remains a hit with snowbirds

Prior Smith has that lyrical, baritone voice you’d expect from an old radio guy.

His lilting sentences and warm, optimistic approach is now a familiar friend from home to the thousands of retirees and other Canadians who prefer golf, shuffleboard and late-afternoon buffets in Florida to the often difficult winters back home.

Smith is busy preparing for another season of Canada Calling, the brief but stalwart radio show he provides seven days a week for a long list of Florida radio stations.

Every morning, Smith’s satiny voice tells snowbirds about the goings-on in the Great White North. The five-and-a-half minute clips include a rundown of news, sports and weather, with an emphasis on information that’s of special interest to Canadians living in America.

“I could go on about debates in the House of Commons and that sort of thing, but I don’t think my listeners aren’t interested in that sort of thing. I know I’m not,” Smiths says, adding that the show runs from the beginning of November to mid-April.

“They want to know about how the Canadian dollar is doing, they want to know how the Leafs did. And, of course, they want to know what the weather is like.”

With the show now 25 years old, Smith, the former CFRB’er who records his newscasts in his Peterborough-area home and sends them via satellite to Florida each morning, believes the show’s longevity is proof that there will forever be a market for Canadian news in Florida.

“People down there will always want to know what happens back home,” he says.

“They want to be in their car on the way to the golf course and find out how cold it is back here, they want to know what the hockey score is.

“They get their Canadian fix and they are off to enjoy the day.”

The show was started by Dave Price, a Toronto broadcaster who knew vacationing Canadians were starved for Canadian news because, even back then, Americans viewed Canada as little more than a snow-covered land that mysteriously produced decent hockey players.

In the late-’70s, the show, which originated out of Price’s home in North Toronto, was sold at the same time Smith already had a competing broadcast. Over the years, after Price’s death in 1978, Canada Calling died as well before Smith resurrected it and took over the well-known moniker.

These days, Smith remains happy to inform fellow Canadians — he works out of his home during the winters and works during the summer selling ads and working to maintain relationships with the 25-odd radio stations that broadcast his show. In recent years, his market has expanded to Texas and Arizona where more than a million Canadians are known to spend their winters.

“I don’t know how long it will last,” says Smith 57. “But I will continue to do my show as long as I am able and as long as the listeners want me around.”

Andrew Matte – Town Crier