PNE $8 million in debt, future of events under threat

Apr 30 2021, 1:47 pm

PNE officials and the City of Vancouver are calling on the provincial government to provide a financial “lifeline” to help weather the financial fallout of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

And while the PNE has been “proudly self-sufficient for decades,” PNE President and Shelly Frost said on Friday that the pandemic has pushed it to the brink.

As a non-profit, said Frost, the PNE has a “unique” corporate structure. As a result, it continues “to be excluded from all grants and funding to date, being provided [to other tourism entities] by the federal and provincial government.”

And while some conversations have taken place over the past year, Frost said so far, this has not amounted to any guarantees of financial assistance.

The PNE had to cancel all of its events in 2020, and will likely have to cancel most – if not all of them – again this year.

As a result, Frost said, the PNE is currently $8 million in debt, and is forecasted to be up to $15 million in debt by the end of this year, if things remain on their current trajectory. Debt that Frost noted would take the PNE a decade-and-a-half to recover from.

“This would forever change this organization, and what we bring to BC would be altered,” she stressed.

To counter this, the city and PNE officials said they are looking to secure $8 million in emergency grants from the provincial government.

“The toll COVID-19 has taken on this 111-year-old institution is so significant it could end the PNE as we know it,” said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart on Friday. “I sincerely hope Premier [John] Horgan will come to the table and provide the support the PNE deserves so we can look forward to another 100 years of memories.”

Friday’s news comes after Playland – located at the PNE fairgrounds – announced this week it was postponing opening day until after May long weekend, following backlash over its plans to open this weekend, amid COVID-19 gathering and travel restrictions.

Eric ZimmerEric Zimmer

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