CNE shutdown a “very real possibility” after $ 6 million loss

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The CNE reports a loss of $ 6 million after this year’s show was canceled due to COVID-19, casting doubt on the future of the event, the executive director said on Wednesday.

Unless governments step in to help, or the CNE cannot secure rental or licensing concessions from the City of Toronto, the historic fair may not be able to operate after 2021 – and if it cannot. open next year due to COVID -19, it may not have a future at all.

“It’s a very real possibility,” said executive director Darrell Brown, adding that he didn’t think governments wouldn’t step in to save the fair, which has been running every year since 1879.

Brown said the 18-day event generates more than $ 128 million in annual economic activity for the province and $ 93 million for the city.

“My message… to the federal government, the provincial government and the municipal authorities is that this is obvious when you look at the economic impact of the fair,” said Brown.

The fair predicts a drop in revenue of more than $ 35 million in ticket sales, sponsorships and revenues from 700 vendors and exhibitors expected at the event this year.

The CNE is in the process of securing a loan under the Federal Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) to stay afloat.

“If we hadn’t been able to negotiate financing under (BCAP), we would run out of cash in February and we would have just had to shut down completely,” Brown said.

But the loan has to be repaid within a year and the fair cannot earn enough in one season to pay it off, so it will be in the same situation in 2021 as it is now, with no more COVID-19 programs. to take over, says Brown.

“It would take us several years to get to the point of recovering what we lost this year,” he said.

The fair’s profit varies widely from season to season, from an occasional loss to a profit of $ 1 million to $ 2 million a year, Brown said.

The fair employs 38 full-time people who now work fewer hours and receive federal wage subsidies – some have suffered a 60 percent pay cut, Brown said.

In addition, 1,085 artists and performers are also unemployed due to the cancellation, in addition to contract employees and 5,000 seasonal workers.

Brown said the CNE pays Toronto $ 9 million a year in rental and license fees. The current five-year lease is up in 2022, and Brown hopes the city will consider a new profit-sharing model.

The Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions (CAFE) lobbied federal departments for more help for the sector, including $ 74 million in solvency support for 743 fairs.

He calls for $ 25 million of this assistance to go to the 10 largest exhibitions in Canada, including the CNE which, because of their size, require additional support.

Together, the 743 fairs welcome around $ 35 million in visitors each year and generate up to $ 2.9 billion in economic spinoffs, according to CAFE CEO Christina Franc.

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Frank said 95% of fairs and exhibitions have canceled or postponed their events in 2020, or established a small presence online.

Vancouver’s Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) warns it expects to lose $ 10 million by the end of the year.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has put significant pressure on this 110-year-old organization (at a level not seen since the Great Depression), leaving the future of this institution in great jeopardy,” said Shelley Frost, President and CEO General of the PNE, in a letter to CAFE sent this summer, in support of the organization’s request for funding.

Francine Kopun is a Toronto-based reporter who covers City Hall and municipal politics for The Star. Follow her on Twitter: @KopunF

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