President’s Message

Winter 2008 CSANews Issue 69  |  Posted date : Dec 23, 2008.Back to list

Over the last few weeks, some people have been asking me what impact the current global financial crisis is having on snowbird travel. Many of these voices, particularly in some of the media interviews which I have been doing, seem convinced that the winter of 2008/2009 will go down in history as the winter that the Canadian snowbird stayed home! I am always puzzled by this mindset, until I remember the one thing that these folks asking the questions all have in common…they are not snowbirds!

I remind them that just five short years ago, the Canadian dollar bottomed out at 62 cents U.S. and that certainly did not stop snowbirds from heading to warmer climes. You will be hard-pressed to convince them to stay home when it is worth 83 cents U.S.! Even with the falling dollar, it has been a long time since you could get a better value on a vacation property, particularly in Florida, Arizona and California. With falling real estate values also comes lower property tax, even in Florida! Not the solution to the Florida property tax mess we are looking for but, after years of skyrocketing increases, we will take what we can get. Add to this the fact that gas prices are finally falling and it seems abundantly clear that there are still plenty of good reasons to embrace the snowbird lifestyle this winter.

Would we prefer if the Canadian dollar were still trading at par? Of course we would, but we have seen far darker days than these, my friends. Canadian snowbirds are the most resilient and experienced travellers whom you will ever find; we adapt! Maybe we will eat more meals in our winter homes than at restaurants, maybe we will cut back on that extra round of weekly golf but, rest assured, we are still travelling in record numbers!

My wife Alice and I recently returned from the latest round of fall Snowbird Lifestyle Presentations. This year, we began down east with shows in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Saint John and Moncton, New Brunswick and St. John's, Newfoundland. These shows offered first-class entertainment in top-notch venues and gave us an opportunity to meet and entertain our members, as well as to sign up new members. From there, we flew to Ontario for shows in Elliot Lake, North Bay, Sarnia, Port Hope and Nepean. Driving through Toronto, I was struck by the number of building and infrastructure improvements being made. Hopefully, this is a sign that Ontario is better positioned than some may think to face the challenges of a global economic slowdown. The shows in Ontario were no less successful, with many of them actually being "sold out." I know what you are thinking – how can a free show be sold out? Well, they are still free but, unfortunately, they are getting to be so popular that we had more bodies than we did seats on a few occasions! Next year, our lifestyle presentations will concentrate on the provinces of Western Canada.

After a brief trip home to Halifax (and I do mean brief), I was back on the road and heading west to Regina to meet with Saskatchewan's minister of health, the Honourable Don McMorris. Also in attendance were the CSA's Central Canada director and Saskatchewan resident John Foster and CSA's communications guru Michael MacKenzie. Minister McMorris is a really down-to-earth and bright member of the government and the people of Saskatchewan are, in my humble opinion, fortunate to have him. The primary focus of our meeting was an attempt to cut some of the red tape surrounding our Saskatchewan members' access to prescription medication while travelling.

The Saskatchewan Drug Plan currently reimburses the cost of a six-month supply of prescription medication and that is a very good thing. Unfortunately, the online billing system will only process one three-month supply within a 45-day period which means that if you are planning to head south for the winter, you must purchase a six-month supply and then separately submit receipts for two three-month supplies.

The issue here does not seem to be money, as the individual can receive payment for the entire six months, but not as a single reimbursement. The tone of our meeting was positive and I am optimistic that we will be able to resolve this issue and make the future travelling plans of our Saskatchewan members a little less complicated. I would also like to thank our director for Central Canada, John Foster, for all his help in putting this meeting together.

This year's Snowbird Extravaganza will be held in Lakeland, Florida on January 27-28, 2009. Our Winter Texans' Snowbird Extravaganza will be held on February 3-4, 2009 and our Canadian Snowbird Celebration in Arizona will be held on February 10-11, 2009. If you cannot make it to one of these extravaganzas, I hope that you will join us at one of our Winter Information Meetings throughout the winter. As always, these shows are free to everyone, so please feel free to bring along your friends.

Alice and I would like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas, a happy holiday season with family and friends and a healthy and prosperous New Year. We look forward to meeting you in 2009.