24 Sussex Drive in a sorry state — but will it ever get fixed?
If Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau becomes Canada’s next prime minster on Oct. 19, he won’t have too much trouble finding his way around his new house.
Trudeau lived at 24 Sussex Dr. — the official residence of the prime minister and his family — for several years as a child, and very little about the place has changed in the years since. As the decades have ticked by, the house has begun to suffer from the usual issues that accompany the passage of time, and now, at nearly 150 years old, the official residence is long overdue for a facelift.
This means that whoever sees their party emerge victorious on election night will need to seriously consider if moving into (or remaining in) 24 Sussex is advisable.
The National Capital Commission (NCC), which serves as the steward for six official residences in the Ottawa region, has been seeking to renovate the property for some time. As of several years ago, the tab for repairs that the NCC considered “urgent” stood at appropriately $10 million, a figure that has not been updated recently.
A highly publicized 2008 Auditor General’s report noted that a failure to do the needed work would mean that the costs would only rise over time, and Canada would risk being embarrassed by the condition of the home during official state visits.
According to NCC spokesperson Jean Wolff, the commission regularly assesses the status of each residence under its care and develops rehabilitation programs.
“With respect to 24 Sussex Drive, the NCC has addressed the most critical health and safety concerns that were raised following the 2008 report,” Wolff explained.
“In addition, the NCC has completed the stabilization of the escarpment along the north and east of the back of the property to stop erosion on this section of the escarpment.”
Among the concerns raised in 2008 were asbestos in the home and electrical wiring that was well past its prime.
The problem the NCC faces is that no prime minister has wanted to deal with the optics of moving out of his house for a year (or more) so that taxpayers can pay to thoroughly modernize it. The Harper family, for instance, has repeatedly refused to vacate, saying that the house fits their needs.
In a recent editorial, the Ottawa Citizen said it would absolve all future leaders of any “moral culpability,” because 24 Sussex technically doesn’t belong to them at all. It belongs to Canadians.
If and when the official residence is renovated, the prime ministerial family would obviously need to be moved elsewhere. The NCC has not indicated where they might go, although both Rideau Gate, the house across from 24 Sussex, and Harrington Lake, which is a 30 minute drive from downtown Ottawa, have reportedly been proposed.
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