The convention centre’s COVID-19 deficit is getting deeper.
In year-end financial statements released on Thursday, Events East, the Crown corporation that runs the Halifax Convention Centre, reported that it lost $11,295,905 in fiscal 2020-2021. That’s about $200,000 more than forecast in Events East’s 2020-2021 budget, released months late in November 2020.
The convention centre was running a deficit before COVID-19, about $5.5. million in 2019-2020, but it’s worsened since the pandemic stopped nearly all events.
Much of the extra loss now is due to much lower than forecast revenue. The convention centre was expected to bring in $750,000 last fiscal year, just a fraction of the $10.8 million it made in 2019-2020, but in fact it only made about $250,000. The lost revenue was only partially offset by lower costs.
The municipal and provincial governments split the convention centre deficit 50/50. HRM expected to pay $5,401,000. Now it’s paying $5,500,611. The provincial government’s share grew from $5,573,000 to $5,678,224 (the provincial government also funds capital purchases). That’s on top of the $5.38 million each level of government pays annually to the building space from Joe Ramia.
The convention centre has been used for COVID-19 testing and vaccination, but it’s unclear how much the province has been paying in rent for the use of the space. The Halifax Examiner has requested that information from the Nova Scotia Health Authority.
Halifax councillors floated the idea of using the convention centre to house people during the pandemic. Chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé told them it wasn’t going to happen.
“The convention centre was running a deficit before COVID-19, about $5.5. million in 2019-2020.” The naysayers were right. Meanwhile, organizations large and small have moved to online events, making a post-COVID convention boom less likely.
Well this was expected. No revenue means huge losses. With things opening up the second half of this fiscal year should be much better, but will it match the year before COVID hit? That is the multi-million dollar question. It is pretty late in the convention game to have a lot of bookings from now until the end of March 2022.