Trudeau says he's looking at options for the crumbling prime minister's residence at 24 Sussex

·3 min read
The prime minister's residence at 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa needs millions of dollars in repairs and upgrades. (Tom Hanson/Canadian Press - image credit)
The prime minister's residence at 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa needs millions of dollars in repairs and upgrades. (Tom Hanson/Canadian Press - image credit)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government continues to assess options for 24 Sussex, the crumbling, mouldy official prime minister's residence that badly needs millions of dollars in repairs.

Trudeau — who has opted to live on the grounds of Rideau Hall with his family since being elected in 2015 — said today that while the home is historic, it's been neglected by generations of prime ministers and is now in terrible condition.

Speaking in French, Trudeau said the government is talking to the National Capital Commission, the Crown corporation that oversees official residences, to decide what to do with the long list of repairs and renovations needed at 24 Sussex, and how to deal with security concerns at the official residence.

A 2021 NCC report said 24 Sussex is in "critical" condition and needs $36.6 million in repairs.

"The building systems at 24 Sussex Drive have reached the point of imminent or actual failure and require replacement," warns the report.

"The age and condition of the electrical systems poses a fire hazard, and the plumbing systems have failures on a regular basis. The building has no permanent air conditioning system; window air conditioners are run in every room in the summer, which poses a security risk and is disruptive and costly. Repairs and/or upgrades are complicated due to the presence of asbestos, lead and mould throughout many of the interior finishes."

The commission said it would need $175 million over 10 years to restore all six official residences — including Stornoway, the official residence for the leader of the Official Opposition, and The Farm, the home of the Speaker in Gatineau Park.

NCC CEO Tobi Nussbaum said he's been trying to make a case to federal officials about the need to fund those repairs.

"I've been speaking to contemporaries and counterparts in the Government of Canada to make sure they understand that the board is preoccupied with this file," Nussbaum told reporters after a board meeting Thursday. The residences were later discussed by the board behind closed doors.

"We need the necessary funding in order to make sure that we can keep these very important and historic buildings up to the state that Canadians expect."

Trudeau has no plans to live at 24 Sussex

The question of what to do with the 34-room official residence has plagued prime ministers for years.

Trudeau alluded to the issue in a 2018 interview, saying "no prime minister wants to spend a penny of taxpayer dollars on upkeeping that house."

"There's a real challenge in this country. Anything that a prime minister decides that they can potentially benefit from — that's one of the reasons that that house has gone into the ground since the time I lived there," he said.

A recent Toronto Star story showed that Trudeau's years at Rideau Cottage also cost taxpayers money. Documents obtained by the newspaper show Canadians have spent more than $3.6 million on repairs, upgrades and renovation work on Rideau Cottage — without fixing the official residence at 24 Sussex.

Taxpayers already are footing hefty bills for heating, electricity, snow clearing and other maintenance at 24 Sussex.

Trudeau said he has no intention of living in 24 Sussex — the home in which he spent much of his childhood while his father was prime minister.

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