OTTAWA –The official residence of Canada’s prime minister is a crumbling “embarrassment” that would be better razed than renovated, says one noted construction expert.
Bryan Baeumler, host of HGTV shows including Disaster DIY and House of Bryan, estimates the 150-year-old house could need as much as $15 million in repairs to transform it into a respectable 21st-century residence.
Baeumler listed a litany of problems with the house, including the presence of toxic asbestos, lack of central heating or cooling and the knob-and-tube electrical wiring, a system that’s been obsolete since around 1945. Even those are relatively minor problems, compared to issues like replacing the roof, plumbing and foundations, he said.
Prime ministers have been generally reluctant to contend with the optics of potentially spending millions of taxpayer dollars to renovate their house, but Bauemler says leaders need to abandon those image concerns.
“All politics aside, this is not Justin (Trudeau)’s house. This is not Stephen (Harper)’s house. This is not Pierre (Trudeau)’s house. This house belongs to the people of Canada and it’s an embarrassment to the rest of the world that our own infrastructure is crumbling so, we have to set an example.”
The building’s shortcomings are well-documented; the National Capital Commission has pushed for urgent repairs and a 2008 report from then-Auditor General Shelia Fraser said the building risked “fostering a negative image of Canada.”
Trudeau’s mother said the house was in dire need of repairs when she lived there with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau over 40 years ago.
The last extensive renovation took place in 1949, before Prime Minister John Diefenbaker became the first PM to take up residence there. Security installations were improved in 1995 after an intruder entered the house and then-PM Jean Chretien resorted to an Inuit sculpture for protection.
Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau recently revealed his family will hold off moving in 24 Sussex, opting instead to reside in nearby Rideau Cottage, while renovations take place.