Manitoba

CBC Manitoba host Ismaila Alfa to pull up stakes and move to Toronto's Metro Morning

Ismaila Alfa, host of CBC Radio's afternoon drive show Up to Speed, will be the new host of CBC Toronto's top-rated radio program Metro Morning.

'I live to connect with people,' says Alfa, who has been host of Up to Speed since 2013

Ismaila Alfa sits in the Up to Speed chair during CBC's annual Harvesting Hope radiothon. (Justin Deeley/CBC )

A familiar voice is leaving the CBC Manitoba airwaves for the big smoke of Toronto.

Ismaila Alfa, host of CBC Radio's afternoon drive show Up to Speed, was named the new host of CBC Toronto's top-rated radio program Metro Morning on Tuesday.

"This is pretty big news for me," Alfa said. "I didn't anticipate the emotions I was going to feel as this announcement is made. I'm really going to miss this city and the people."

His first day in the new chair will be Aug. 24.

He has, however, been in Toronto off and on for the past few months, filling in on Metro Morning as well as the afternoon show, Here and Now.

"As a guest host on Metro Morning during the early days of the pandemic and recent events focused on anti-Black racism, Ismaila has already sparked a bond with Toronto listeners by navigating through this remarkable moment in history with empathy and steadiness and the strong journalism he has brought to Winnipeg listeners for years," said Tim Richards, director of journalism and programming at CBC Toronto.

"In this country's most diverse city, Ismaila will bring new energy and a fresh perspective to Toronto audiences."

CBC host Ismaila Alfa is moving to Toronto but says he will 'be a Winnipeg boy forever.' (Donna Carreiro/CBC)

Born in Nigeria to a Nigerian father and Canadian mother — his mom hails from Pipestone, Man. — Alfa was raised in Nigeria and Canada. His family initially moved to Edmonton, where he completed his early school years, before they resettled in Winnipeg, where Alfa wrapped up his middle and senior school years.

He pursued a civil engineering degree at the University of Manitoba but dropped out to tour Canada and the United States as a hip-hop musician for nearly a decade.

He joined CBC Radio in Winnipeg in 2008, working as an audio technician for the morning show, Information Radio, and as a traffic reporter.

Does the black experience differ across Manitoba? How has it changed over the years? As we celebrate Black History Month, CBC’s Ismaila Alfa and Ify Chewetelu host a panel on what it means to be black in the keystone province. Panellists include Markus Chambers, Jamie Moses and Chimwemwe Undi. 38:36

In June 2013, Alfa took the helm as the host of Up to Speed, bringing the show to the No.1 position in Winnipeg's afternoon radio market.

"I live to connect with people. That's why I love this job so much, and I feel such a deep, deep connection with Winnipeg and Manitoba," Alfa said.

"I love this city. This sounds cheesy but it is the absolute truth. I love this city and I will be a Winnipeg boy forever.

"I will never ever forget that and I will value it for the rest of my life. It will never be lost, but I look forward to adding to that connection, that bond, and building that with the people of Toronto as well."

Alfa will miss Winnipeg's arts scene and his connection with the community, he said.

Little things resonate the most, he said, mentioning the man who walked by the CBC building on Portage Avenue every day for years and shared a simple peace sign wave with Alfa.

"I'm going to miss those types of things," Alfa said.

"And I'm going to miss being out at an event and somebody coming up beside me and saying 'Hi' and that they listen to the show, and then telling me their story — just to hear their story, and what they're interested in, what they're concerned about, what they love.

"I'm going to miss the people. I really, really will."

Connection with Trebek

Alfa will step into a role that has some significant history to it, in terms of the personalities that came before him.

Metro Morning premiered in 1973 with the name Tomorrow Is Here. It replaced I'm Here Till 9, which had been hosted by none other than Alex Trebek from 1971 until the end of 1972, long before he found fame as the game show host for Jeopardy.

Tomorrow Is Here was renamed Metro Morning in 1974.

The show was hosted by Matt Galloway from 2010 until he became host of the network's national morning news show, The Current, in January.

Since then, Metro Morning has had a cast of temporary guest hosts that has included Farrah Merali, Piya Chattopadhyay, Jill Dempsey, David Common and Alfa.

About the Author

Darren Bernhardt

Reporter/Editor

Darren Bernhardt spent the first dozen years of his journalism career in newspapers, first at the Regina Leader-Post then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009 and specializes in offbeat and local history stories and features. Story idea? Email: darren.bernhardt@cbc.ca

With files from Trevor Dineen

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