Vancouver council calls on feds, province to help the PNE survive COVID-19
Published Friday, January 22, 2021 3:25PM PST
(Photo from PNE.ca)
VANCOUVER -- Vancouver's City Council is calling on the federal and provincial governments to provide funding to the Pacific National Exhibition.
In a motion passed Wednesday, councillors voted to ask that the PNE be included in wage subsidy programs "on a special case basis," as well as to authorize Mayor Kennedy Stewart to lobby for extra funding to help ensure the survival of the 110-year-old institution.
According to the motion, the PNE has laid off 93 per cent of its full-time, unionized employees and 50 per cent of managers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because it was unable to host its annual fair or other large-scale events over the summer, the organization missed out on an estimated $52 million in revenue, and is now $10.5 million in debt, according to the city council.
"As one of the largest Fairs in Canada, the PNE is now at a dramatic disadvantage in its ability to recover past 2021 even after freezing all spending, laying off all but essential services staff, and shutting down ventures and deferring capital payments with lenders," the motion reads. "Financial aid to reduce the PNE’s COVID-related debt and subsidize program costs in 2021 will be required for the organization to remain viable in the post-COVID period."
The City of Vancouver owns the PNE, but it operates at arm's length and receives no funding from the city for its operations.
Unfortunately for the PNE, its ownership structure disqualifies it from federal wage subsidies and other COVID-19 relief from the Canadian government, according to the motion passed by city council.
"To date, the PNE has not received a single dollar from any recovery program at any level of government," the motion reads, noting that comparable organizations - including other fairs and private entertainment venues across Canada - are able to receive such funds.
Had it been eligible for the wage subsidy, the PNE would expect to receive close to $6 million by the time the program is scheduled to end in June, according to the motion.
The city council's motion describes the PNE's exclusion from wage subsidies as "unintentional."