WATERLOO -- One of Canada’s biggest festivals is turning to the federal government for financial help, as the season remains suspended due to the global pandemic.

Officials with the Stratford Festival appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance on Thursday, requesting $8 million in recovery funding, through a combination of a grant and a loan.

Carol Stephenson, the Chair of the Board of Governors, was joined by executive director Anita Gaffney during the virtual appearance.

“It pains all of us to be in this position,” said Stephenson. “It is not our usual manner and one that we will not become accustomed to.”

They say the money is needed to fill the gap created by plummeting ticket sales due to COVID-19.

Here’s some of what festival officials cited in making their case, summarized in a news release from the organization after Thursday’s hearing:

  • a shortage of around $20million is projected for the largest not-for-profit theatre in North America
  • the festival is committed to raising $12 million in private sector donations
  • the festival brings in over $130 million in economic activityyearly
  • It drives $55 million in taxes to the three levels of government annually
  • it brings 500,000 people to Stratford every year, a fifth of whom come from the U.S.
  • the festival directly employs 1,000 people and creates an additional 2,000 jobs
  • the festival has attracted almost 29 million visitors to southwestern Ontario over the past 67 years

“The Stratford Festival was founded in 1952 to save the town from economic disaster when it lost its major industry,” said Stephenson. “It worked and it continues to work.”

Steps listed to stabilize the organization include a ticket donation campaign, reducing overhead expenses, drawing from their endowment, and launching a fundraiser campaign.

The Stratford Festival announced on April 27 the entire 2020 season would be put on hold.

The Season Gala Opening Night Red Carpet would have been this past Monday.

With reporting from Jeff Pickel and Krista Simpson