Vancouver's PNE urges $8M lifeline from provincial government

Buoyed by the sound of honks from passing motorists, employees of Vancouver's Pacific National Exhibition rallied on the fair grounds Wednesday morning, to highlight what they’re calling a “financial crisis.”

Hit hard by COVID-19 restrictions, unions representing the PNE's workers figured the 111-year-old summer fair will be $15 million in debt by the fall.

They are seeking an $8-million boost from the provincial government to help the PNE climb out of the red.

“The devastation of our members last year not working, and the impacts financial to the PNE are so dire,” said Andrew Ledger, president CUPE Local 1004. “If they’re saddled with debt for years to come it will mean less events, less excitement, and less work for our members.”

The opposition B.C. Liberals said the government “must act quickly” to save the fair, because it would a blow to farmers and ranchers across the province.

“If the PNE isn’t saved and it closes for good, this would be a huge loss for B.C.’s agricultural community,” said B.C. Liberal MLA Ian Paton.

In a written response to CTV News, the government said it is helping similar organizations through its Major Anchor Attractions Program, and dozens of applications are currently being reviewed.

“Through this program, attractions like the PNE are eligible for up to $1 million in one-time grants, not loans,” wrote Melanie Mark, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport.

The minister did not commit to the $8 million in aid the fair is seeking. 

Union members have planned a second rally afternoon rally, also on the fair grounds

A reduced capacity PNE is scheduled to open on Aug. 21, and will run until Sept. 6.