Toronto cancels CNE, other major events for 2nd straight summer over COVID-19

·4 min read
There are already signs another distanced summer is in store for Toronto, like the freshly painted circles at Trinity Bellwoods Park in the city's west end.  (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
There are already signs another distanced summer is in store for Toronto, like the freshly painted circles at Trinity Bellwoods Park in the city's west end. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

The City of Toronto has cancelled all major in-person events for a second straight summer due to COVID-19, it confirmed Friday.

Toronto continues to grapple with high levels of COVID-19 during the pandemic's third wave, though daily case numbers have been declining in recent weeks. The cancellations stretch all the way to Labour Day, even as provincial officials expressed hope yesterday that July and August would be as normal as possible.

Among the cancelled events are the Canadian National Exhibition, Taste of the Danforth, the Caribbean Carnival, Salsa in Toronto and more. You can see the full list released by the city at the bottom of this story — and remember, many of these events will move online in some fashion.

Why make the decision in May, when the future looks so uncertain? The city says in a news release event organizers asked for "as much advance notification as possible" to help with their planning.

Mayor John Tory told CBC Radio's Metro Morning that he believes the city will be in much better place by the late summer, but he's not sure it will safe to be "shoulder to shoulder" with huge groups of people.

Waiting until the last minute to cancel events would also draw criticism, he said.

There are already signs another distanced summer is in store for Toronto, like the freshly painted circles at Trinity Bellwoods Park in the city's west end.
There are already signs another distanced summer is in store for Toronto, like the freshly painted circles at Trinity Bellwoods Park in the city's west end. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Darrell Brown, Executive Director of the CNE, said while expected, the news is devastating for the community and staff who are bracing for "massive" layoffs.

"At this point in time we're living on borrowed money in the short-term and will be completely out of funds by December," Brown told CBC News.

The normally self-sustaining event has lost more than $70 million in revenue over the course of the pandemic, said Brown. It cut expenses by 86 per cent, but still needs about $11 million to survive to 2022.

It has been asking for help from the provincial and federal governments for months without tangible results, Brown said. The only pandemic relief the CNE has received is $20,000 from Ontario's small business relief fund.

Earlier, Tory issued a news release saying the city is committed to seeing the CNE return next year. Last year's closure marked the first time the historic event had been cancelled since the Second World War.

"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," he said.

CNE organizers say the event generates some $128 million for the Ontario economy each year and attracts some 1.4 million visitors when it's open.

The move is in line with recommendations from the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), which warned this week a ban on mass gatherings should remain in place when the province is ready to begin reopening.

WATCH | You can hear more about what OMA experts think should reopen and what shouldn't in this video:

City has now delivered 1.6 million vaccine doses

The city says 1.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the city (total population, nearly 3 million).

Just over 650,000 more people have booked a vaccination appointment at a city-run clinic, while tens of thousands more will get their first doses at pop-up and mobile sites in the coming weeks.

However, with the province planning to shift its vaccine strategy away from hot spots, there is a chance the city's vaccination rate could slow.

On Thursday, Ontario announced its stay-at-home order will remain in place until "at least" June 2.

The City of Toronto, meanwhile, has been in lockdown since last November.

Here's the list of cancelled events released by the city:

  • 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