cne closure

The CNE could close permanently thanks to massive deficit caused by the pandemic

Everyone's favourite summer event could soon be no more, because the CNE is estimating a 95 per cent loss of projected revenue this year due to the pandemic.

The organizers of the iconic Toronto event said in a news release issued Thursday that the CNE is reporting a loss of more than $6 million this year, and they estimate a 95 per cent drop in projected revenue from cancelling the event.

All told, more than $35 million of potential earnings from ticket sales, exhibitor commitments, sponsorships and other income streams have been lost as a result of the pandemic.

"On any other Labour Day weekend, the CNE would typically be drawing out record crowds during its final stretch, packed with visitors soaking in the last days of summer and Air Show fans lining the lakeshore," reads the release. 

"This year, under unprecedented circumstances and in the interest of protecting public safety, the CNE made the historic decision to cancel its 18-day attraction; and prepares to wrap the 2020 season with a significant financial loss that will impact the future of the fair."

Back in May, the CNE organizers made the difficult decision to cancel the annual event due to the global health crisis and move to an online, virtual version.

But the long-term financial effects of the cancellation are undeniable, made evident by the absence of the significant boost to the regional economy in tourism, jobs, supplier contracts, artist fees, and millions of dollars in retail transactions that support the livelihood of vendors, exhibitors, midway concessions and neighbourhood business. 

In total, these losses amount to an approximate economic impact of $128 on the province.

As a result, the CNE Association (CNEA) — the not-for-profit agricultural organization that governs the CNE — is calling for government support and relief to ensure the Ex can continue in the years to come.

"Basic business sense should guide government policy," said CNE Executive Director Darrell Brown in a statement.

"Allocating a grant of $6 million to help the CNE produce an event that generates $128 million dollars to the province annually, is a sound investment when you consider the greater gain to the regional economy and tourism; saving 5000 seasonal jobs, many of which support youth; and the artists, vendors and businesses that benefit."

Organizers say the CNE is meanwhile in the process of securing a loan under the federal Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP), and they've also tapped into COVID-19 economic support programs to help bridge the financial gap. 

Still, the loan will eventually have to be repaid and alternative sources will need to be found to fully recover from this year's deficit. The CNE says it would simply not be able to support its annual operating costs through to 2021 had it not been for the BCAP loan.

"The total financial losses to the CNE as a result of the pandemic are still uncertain, and likely to increase as the pandemic continues to affect businesses, public events and large-scale gatherings. We also have to factor in considerations such as how the consumer behavior of our visitors might change; and putting safety first in all aspects of our planning," said John Kiru, president of the CNE Association, in a statement.

"Our road to financial recovery is a long-term proposition; however, we are encouraged by the public support of our fans who have connected with our virtual fair, and are optimistic that visitors will come out to support us again in person next year to help make it a banner year."

More than 1.5 million people typically visit the CNE each year, and organizers say attendance tends to surge after the event experiences a challenging year.

They say they're confident they can put on a successful 2021 season with booming attendance as long as they receive the investment they now require (and if the pandemic permits).

The 2021 Canadian National Exhibition dates are set for Aug. 20 to Sept. 6.

"Generations of Torontonians have grown up with the CNE, it is part of our city's identity and is deep-rooted in our country's heritage," said Kiru.

"We know that, when we are able to open our gates again, Torontonians will join us in celebrating what we've collectively missed out on this year."


Join the conversation Load comments

Latest in City

Toronto was just deemed the second-fastest rising global city in the world

This Toronto street now has more than 50 giant santas

Doug Ford defends decision to keep big box stores open

A Toronto neighbourhood has been transformed into a winter wonderland with a light tunnel

People in Toronto report seeing fireball fly across the sky

10 notable businesses that closed in Toronto last month

Wild proposal fills in all the basins along Toronto's waterfront with park space

People in Toronto still having friends over despite warnings and rules against it