Strategic Plan


The Canadian National Exhibition Association (CNEA) has a strong and long history of planning and executing the 18-day Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) – dating back to 1879. The organization’s move to self-sustaining status in 2013 provides a unique opportunity to continue to deliver the CNE and also demonstrate its year-round relevancy and impact to its key stakeholders and those it serves.

In 2017, the CNEA initiated a strategic planning process to set out a direction for the organization for the next three years. This new direction will see an exploration of programming and revenue diversification opportunities for the CNEA, while respecting its roots as an agricultural society, showcasing the organization’s history with and continued commitment to promoting new innovations, and striving to be best in class in all aspects of governance and management.

The CNEA also recently re-initiated its foundation – the Canadian National Exhibition Foundation (CNEF) – which will provide additional avenues for both resource development and building community partnerships.

In the next three years, the CNEA will work to achieve its strategic goals and objectives, building on its strengths and responding to opportunities, while addressing any challenges and mitigating any risks.

Strategic Goals

The Canadian National Exhibition is both an extraordinary legacy and a modern, vibrant showcase of agriculture, community, the arts and industry. As the proud custodian of this cultural celebration, the CNEA will continue to invest in the CNE’s future for generations to come. In addition to hosting Canada’s largest annual event, the CNEA will embrace the following strategic goals:

  1. To be an engaged year-round community partner
    The CNEA will expand its involvement and presence within the community through the production of new events outside of the 18-day Fair and development of initiatives that contribute to community building. The CNEA will define a brand architecture, which includes the CNEA umbrella organization, the relationship with the CNEF, and a distinct brand for each new event.
    The CNEA will continue to grow and innovate the organization and Fair. New partnerships and alliances will be established, including a collaborative arrangement with the CNEF. Through the development of a five-year accessibility plan, the CNEA will continue to remove barriers and foster inclusivity. The CNEA has a renewed commitment to Indigenous Peoples and fostering reconciliation.
  2. Preserve and promote the rich CNEA heritage
    The CNEA will continue to enhance its agricultural presentation with educational opportunities related to current social and cultural topics, such as food and food choices, urban food production, water and food security, as well as innovation in food. The organization will showcase the CNEA’s history and continued commitment to sharing, promoting and encouraging innovation. The CNEA will ensure that iconic elements of the CNE are retained, shared and celebrated.
  3. Participate in discussions concerning the site’s future
    As the organization that founded the Exhibition Place grounds, the CNEA remains committed to the site and the preservation of its heritage structures. The CNEA will identify needs for future editions of the Fair, as well as new events, and engage in conversations with stakeholders to influence future planning for the site and Western Waterfront. The organization will also explore and pursue opportunities to invest further into the site in support of expanded year-round programming that aligns with its vision, mission and values.
  4. Modernize CNEA governance in support of the CNEA’s mission and vision
    The CNEA will review and assess its governance structure, and advocate for its modernization. The CNEA and CNEF will establish a clear framework and associated protocols to guide the ongoing relationship between the organizations. The CNEA will establish and implement a work plan to enhance engagement with its membership
  5. Champion organizational excellence
    The CNEA will strive for excellence in all aspects of its operation and aim to become an employer of choice as it builds internal capacity in support of its revenue and event diversification. Initiatives will be explored and introduced to ensure continued financial sustainability and efficiencies, meet the organization’s evolving Information Technology needs, build a strong organizational culture, and modernize tools and systems. The organization will explore external funding sources and expand sources of CNEA-generated revenue.

Critical Success Factors

Multi-year investment/resourcing plan
Moving beyond the annual delivery of the 18-day Fair, and in particular developing and offering new programming at other times during the year, may require securing new space, as well as investments in marketing and communications, program development and piloting new exhibits and events, etc. Increases in CNEA staff capacity with key skills and competencies will also be required as new programming grows. The organization will require a multi-year investment and resourcing plan, with expected return on investments and associated timelines, supported by the Board of Directors, to achieve many of the strategic imperatives outlined in this strategy document.

Staff resourcing
As the CNEA continues to deliver and evolve the Fair, while at the same time developing and delivering new programming, a continued assessment of staff resources may be required to achieve the organization’s objectives. This could include effectively and efficiently utilizing existing staff and building their capacity, adding staff on an incremental basis, and/or perhaps acquiring key skills and expertise from contractors, etc.

Effective governance
An actively engaged Board, at a strategic level, will be critical to attainment of the organization’s strategic imperatives. In particular, Board support and the engagement of key Board member champions, who can utilize their networks in the political, public service and private sector spheres, will be essential to moving forward with both the modernization of CNEA governance and the CNEA’s efforts to influence future planning for the Exhibition Place grounds and Western Waterfront.

Building and maintaining relationships with key communities and stakeholders
As the CNEA works to expand beyond the 18-day Fair, and likely beyond the Exhibition Place grounds, it must always be aware of the communities and other stakeholders who have an interest in what the CNEA does and would like to do, or may be impacted by CNEA programming. An effective stakeholder relations program will be essential in building and sustaining relationships that will support CNEA growth and mitigate potential risks.

Building an effective working relationship with the Canadian National Exhibition Foundation (CNEF)
As the CNEF works to establish itself, in terms of governance, staffing, resourcing and areas of focus, the CNEA is well-positioned to work collaboratively with the CNEF to ensure alignment of objectives, and to build synergies that will support both organizations as they move forward. In particular, the CNEA objective of supporting community building provides a clear opportunity to collaborate with the CNEF.

Identifying and building partnerships and other collaborative arrangements
As the CNEA moves to increase its year-round relevance, expand its footprint and keep its heritage of innovation and agriculture relevant to its audiences, it will likely find the need to develop collaborative arrangements, which bring necessary skills, resources, networks and expertise that cannot be found or built in-house. Finding and securing those critical external partnerships or other arrangements will help the CNEA achieve its strategic imperatives and help mitigate some of the risks associated with expansion.

About The Canadian National Exhibition Association
The Canadian National Exhibition Association (CNEA) is a provincially incorporated agricultural society that organizes the annual Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto, Ontario. Operating since 1879, the CNEA encourages agriculture, horticulture, the arts and manufacturing.

The CNEA and its volunteer Board of Directors are governed under two Acts of the Province of Ontario: the Canadian National Exhibition Association Act, 2000; and the Agricultural and Horticultural Organizations Act, R.S.O. 1990, Chapter A.9.

A corporation without share capital, the CNEA became independent from the City of Toronto and the Board of Governors of Exhibition Place on April 1, 2013.