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Toronto cancelling CNE, major summer events for 2nd year in a row

Last Updated May 14, 2021 at 5:27 pm EDT

A general view of the children's ride area at the 2018 Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto on Sept. 1, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dominic Chan

Some of Toronto’s largest crowd-drawing events will be facing another year of cancellations because of COVID-19.

The City of Toronto says it will issue no permits for events until after Labour Day (Sept. 6).

The cancellations include festivals and other large, in-person gatherings, held at outdoor sites managed by the city or other public locations, such as roads, parks and civic squares.

This means summer staples like the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) and Taste of the Danforth will be axed for yet another year.

“Today’s announcement by the City means that the CNE will have to reassess the financial viability of surviving a second consecutive year of lost revenues totalling up to $70 million,” says Darrell Brown, CNE Executive Director.

In a statement released Friday, Mayor John Tory says he is committed to preserving the summer fair.

“I am working with the Canadian National Exhibition to help the fair through this difficult year and prepare for a bigger and better in-person event in 2022,” said Tory.

“The City supported The Ex when it had to be cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, and the City will once again step forward to support the CNE again this year.”

The CNE said in February they were moving forward with plans to open this year, with organizers saying the event would go on as long as no government restrictions were in place.

The event is a major economic driver for the city who reported a loss of $6 million due to the cancellation of last year’s event. The CNE welcomed 1.5 million guests in 2019.

Other major events that are impacted include the Beaches Jazz Festival and Toronto Honda Indy.

List of major in-person events that will be impacted:

  • Taste of the Middle East
  • Taste of Lawrence
  • Honda Indy
  • Toronto Outdoor Art Fair
  • Afrofest
  • Salsa in Toronto
  • 49th Annual Festival of India
  • Bloor West StreetFest
  • Beaches Jazz Festival
  • Oss Fest
  • Caribbean Junior Carnival
  • Scarborough Ribfest
  • Caribbean Carnival, King and Queen Competition, Pan Alive and Grand Parade
  • Taste of the Danforth
  • Vegandale Food Drink Festival
  • Bollywood Film Fair
  • Waterfront Night Market
  • Canadian National Exhibition
  • Mabuhay Philippines Festival
  • Toronto Chinatown Festival
  • Labour Day Parade

The city had already announced it would be cancelling all city-led and city-permitted outdoor events up to and including Canada Day.

This meant major festivities like the Juno Awards and Pride Parade were forced to move to virtual events.

In a news conference later Friday, he said the cancellation of the CNE will have ripple effects.

“The real loss is to businesses and to hotels and to the other two governments who get all the money from these kinds of events (through taxes) – and to the citizens who don’t get to have fun,” Tory said.

A spokeswoman for Ontario’s tourism and culture minister said the province was considering additional support for the CNE.

“We will continue to work with the CNE and sector stakeholders, so we are able to return when it is safe to do so,” spokeswoman Dakota Brasier said in a statement.

The Ford government extended the provincewide stay-at-home order on Thursday for an additional two weeks until at least June 2.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” said Premier Doug Ford. “We must stay vigilant and continue to do what we’re doing. My goal is to have the most normal July and August possible.”

In February, the province said they would be investing more than $7 million in the Reconnect Festival and Event Program.

The program aims to support festival and event organizers by offering Ontario communities safe events as the pandemic continues. Toronto was set to get over half of the province’s funding.

In the city of Toronto alone, the travel restrictions and lockdowns of the past year have resulted in more than $8 billion in lost visitor spending.

Destination Toronto said in March that the number inflates to more than $14 billion when expanded to include the entire Greater Toronto Area.

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