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Feds won’t bail out B.C.’s coronavirus-beleaguered PNE, suggests Trudeau

Struggling PNE calls on federal government to provide financial relief
There's renewed concern tonight over the future of an iconic, and historic B.C. tradition. The PNE is pleading for the same financial relief other Canadian attractions are receiving. And with the fate of the fair up in the air, John Hua has more on the prime minister's response.

There will be no federal bailout of Vancouver’s COVID-19-beleaguered Pacific National Exhibition (PNE).

That’s according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was asked about support for the institution in a Wednesday interview with Global News.

The PNE is owned by the City of Vancouver, meaning it was not eligible for the federal government’s Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. However, the institution operates as a non-profit, with no financial support from the city.

Read more: Vancouver’s PNE kicks off ‘totally different’ drive-thru fair amid COVID-19

Trudeau suggested there would be no exemption for the fair.

“We we want to be part of the solution, but obviously, there are a lot of different organisations and Canadians hurting across the country and we have to try and be there as best as we can in a fair way,” said Trudeau.

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“When we turned around with the Safe Restart Agreement with the provinces, we moved forward on giving money directly to the provinces for the municipalities to help them with their priorities. So if these are priorities for the municipalities, there’s federal money for that.”

Justin Trudeau on saving B.C. tourism sector amid COVID-19 financial ruin
Justin Trudeau on saving B.C. tourism sector amid COVID-19 financial ruin

The Safe Restart Agreement earmarks $19 billion for Canadian provinces to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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About $2 billion of that money will flow to the B.C. provincial government.

READ MORE: PNE/Playland predicts gross loss of $52 million due to COVID-19 shutdown

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Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said Wednesday that Ottawa needs to step in to ensure the fair survives.

“No other fair in Canada is subject to these conditions, so the prime minister has to do the right thing here and has to make sure the money that other fairs are eligible for comes to the PNE,” said Stewart.

“The prime minister has to decide whether or not this fair is going to close. He has to rescue it by using existing federal programs to make sure the money flows through to the PNE.”

A revised PNE event raises concerns about the future of the annual fair
A revised PNE event raises concerns about the future of the annual fair

The PNE, which usually employs about 4,200 people, is facing a major financial shortfall after the pandemic forced it to cancel its regular fair and hold a truncated eight-day drive-through event instead.

In May the PNE projected it could record a gross loss of $52 million for 2020.

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CUPE, the union representing fair workers, says the institution could end the year with $19 million in debt — a potential “fatal blow” for a non-profit organization.

Watch the full interview with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau here:

Trudeau discusses back to school season amid COVID-19 pandemic, upcoming throne speech
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