Union launches 'Save the PNE' campaign amidst financial struggles
VANCOUVER -- A union representing Pacific National Exhibition workers has launched a new campaign to help fight for the fair's long-term survival.
"We can't let organizations like this, and institutions like this, become victims of COVID," said Andrew Ledger, president of CUPE 1004, which represents over 4,000 fair employees.
The PNE has fallen through an accidental loophole and hasn't been able to access some of the federal government's emergency funding, the union says.
The PNE is owned by the City of Vancouver and municipalities cannot apply for financial aid like the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy program, which provides qualifying businesses and non-profits funding for 75 per cent of employee wages.
The union said as a result, 1,600 part-time workers have not been able to work, 100 full-time staff have been laid off and the annual hire of 2,500 seasonal workers was put on hold.
"It's time to step up. It's time to acknowledge that this organization needs support now. If it's not the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy, it needs to be something else," Ledger said.
PNE CEO Shelley Frost said it's a hard pill to swallow knowing other Canadian fair counterparts, like the Stampede and the Canadian National Exhibition, have been able to receive support from CEWS.
"We have fallen into this weird crack," Frost said. "We're not asking for anything that's any different than what all other organizations have been able to access."
Over the past several weeks, the PNE did not stay shuttered; it offered several drive-thru experiences and hosted a Canada Day reverse parade.
Frost said those events were not large revenue generators; but rather, they helped maintain a presence in the community.
"We're looking to break even and maybe come out a little bit ahead, but it's not like it's going to be a big revenue generator for us this year. But it's important to us again to stay relevant and have as many people working as we can," she said.
The PNE typically makes $60 million a year. This year, it anticipates its revenue will be $8 million.
Frost said they expect to go into debt by $10 million to 11 million this year and the future looks bleak if the federal government doesn't provide a financial lifeline.
"There comes a point in time when you get so far into debt that it makes it very, very difficult -- if not impossible -- to get out of that debt and move forward in a positive way. That's what we're trying really hard to make sure does not happen," she said.
A response from the ministry of finance was not received by deadline.
Creating more uncertainty, Bill Morneau resigned as finance minister Monday.