The problems with the CNE this year

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The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) is an annual two week event that has become synonymous with summer in Toronto. It was founded in 1879 and has evolved into a signifier of Canadian culture and experience.

As the largest fair in Canada, the CNE has changed overtime to reflect the innovations and diversity of our country, making it a popular yearly tradition for people in the Greater Toronto Area.

As an event that is intended to showcase popular points of interest like food, agriculture, art and entertainment, it’s unfortunate that such a beloved experience by so many has faced a great deal of controversy during its run this year.

On its opening day at Exhibition Place, visitors were faced with lines of protestors who were rallying against a labour dispute that involved hundreds of CNE employees.

Around 400 workers have been without a contract since December 2017 and the dispute between them and the Exhibition Place’s board of governors resulted in the stagehands and technical employees being locked-out in July.

There’s something unsettling when the fair continues its run like any other year, with something like a $100 hamburger made with 24-karat gold being sold on the other side of the picket line while workers are fighting for their rights.

The CNE is an event that is a fun and iconic staple in Canadian culture, but it shouldn’t sacrifice the safety and wellbeing of the people who want to work to make it that way.

Toronto Mayor John Tory expressed his assurance that the top priority was that visitors enjoyed the fair as much as possible.

Unintentionally sounding a little too similar to the mayor from Jaws, Tory’s response is reminiscent of the fictional politician determined to bring in as many visitors during the summer as possible, regardless of the other factors that may impact it.

To add insult to injury, a fatal shooting occurred near the fairgrounds last Sunday, further dampening the already problematic spirit surrounding the CNE this year. These occurrences are unfortunate, but they highlight larger issues that exist as well.

Instead of funneling contrived positivity into people’s enjoyment over an Apple Fritter Fried Chicken Sandwich or how much money they’ll put into midway tickets, maybe the focus should be on the problems that are bigger than whether or not a family of four has fun for a day.

The labour dispute was quoted by the CNE’s chief executive as having a “significant negative impact,” with a projected $1.5 million in losses this year.

As well, the increase in gun violence that has been seen in Toronto lately is not something to overlook either. The financial success of the CNE shouldn’t be a priority over the rights of its workers and the violence that’s happening right next door.

The CNE is an event that is a fun and iconic staple in Canadian culture, but it shouldn’t sacrifice the safety and wellbeing of the people who want to work to make it that way.

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