For the first time since the Second World War, the Canadian National Exhibition was forced to close its doors due to COVID-19 – a decision that could end one of Toronto’s most well-known attractions.
The CNE may be forced to close down permanently – it is currently reporting a $6-million loss and on track to lose a record-breaking $35 million.
Husam Mohmood, an occupational health and safety graduate from Ryerson University, worked as a custodian at the CNE for the summer of 2013. Mohmood misses the camaraderie he had with former employees and genuinely enjoyed his time working there.
“I found that it was a great job for students in their first year knowing how laid back and fun the work was,” said Mohmood. “Seeing the CNE shut down is very disappointing. It was a great event!”
Zoe Brownstone, a former CNE employee for over 10 years in the Arts, Crafts and Hobbies Pavilion, could not be more upset about the news.
“I haven’t worked at the CNE for three years now and I currently live in Europe, but hearing that the whole thing has gone ‘online’ truly breaks my heart,” said Brownstone. “Of course it’s necessary in these times to keep people safe but that fair is such a staple in so many childhoods.”
Brownstone still looks back fondly at her time spent at the exhibition despite pursuing a career in comedy and currently living in Amsterdam.
“The job definitely wasn’t easy but I do miss it – I was able to employ some incredible women, that part I really miss!” she said.
The CNE and other fairs are not supported by the government and rely on funding from previous years to stay afloat, which is mandated by federal law.
“The situation could become very dire if we are not able to hold (the CNE) in 2021,”said CNE executive director Darrell Brown. “Any time you have an entity that relies on a few days in the year to generate most of its revenue, you’re susceptible obviously – and the CNE is no exception.”
The CNE generates an annual $128 million in Ontario, employs approximately 5,000 workers, and entertains typically between 1.4 – 1.6 million visitors year after year.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford told reporters at the beginning of September he will contribute to saving the CNE if the city of Toronto and the federal government are on board as well, although he made no specific promises.
The CNE is currently in the process of securing a returnable loan through the federal Business Credit Availability Program. If they are not able to pay off the loan or find new revenue services, their financial reserves for workers’ strikes and bad weather conditions will be depleted.
For more information on the CNE follow their official Twitter @LetsGoToTheEx.