Commons Committee condemns Rideau Hall for spending $8 million to build a barn

Rideau Hall spent $8,039,853 on a solar-powered warehouse dubbed "the barn." According to Blacklock’s Reporter, officials described the structure as "the Government of Canada’s first zero carbon building" in Ottawa.

Commons Committee condemns Rideau Hall for spending $8 million to build a barn
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby
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The careless spending of Governor General Mary Simon and her enablers at Rideau Hall have earned them a feverish scolding from a Commons committee Tuesday.

The Commons public accounts committee agreed October 24 to summon federal managers to answer why they billed taxpayers $8 million for a solar-powered "the barn" at Rideau Hall, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.

By a unanimous 10-0 vote, the committee approved a motion to "study […] this seemingly imprudent spending" given the ongoing cost of living crisis and invited National Capital Commission (NCC) CEO Tobi Nussbaum to testify.

Staff from the Treasury Board and Department of Public Works are also expected to speak on the matter, with a subsequent report to the House at a later date.

"It is our obligation to ensure taxpayer dollars are wisely spent," said Conservative MP Jake Stewart. "This includes reviewing who at the National Capital Commission and the Treasury Board approved $8 million for a barn at Rideau Hall."

On October 18, he lambasted the "egregious waste of taxpayer money."

Through records obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) in an access to information request, Rideau Hall spent $8,039,853 on a solar-powered warehouse dubbed "the barn."

"I don’t know much about farming, but I’m pretty sure my buddies in Brooks can build a barn for a lot less than eight million bucks," said Franco Terrazzano, CTF Federal Director. “It seems like the NCC goes out of its way to spend as much money as possible.”

According to Blacklock’s Reporter, Rideau Hall officials described the structure as "the Government of Canada’s first zero carbon building" in Ottawa. It features a washing bay, a repair garage working area, a tool and equipment storage area, vehicle storage, and additional storage space.

The taxpayers group said despite receiving approval for the project in June 2019, construction did not begin until July 2020. After several "change orders" to the "barn," construction finished in the winter 2021.

According to a recent CTF report, the NCC has spent a whopping $135 million renovating and maintaining Canada's six official residences from 2006 to 2022. They claim another $175 million from taxpayers is required to "restore" those buildings over the coming decade. 

"It’s ridiculous [...] the NCC can’t figure out how to manage properties without costing taxpayers an arm and a leg," said Terrazzano. "The government needs to find someone else who can."

The October 18 summons followed an October 4 report by the Commons government operations committee on lavish spending by Simon on "Beef Wellington" and "silk jackets."

Simon showed "a complete lack of regard for taxpayers' money," Conservative MPs on the government operations committee wrote in a Supplementary Opinion.

"The list of ridiculous spending keeps growing," said Stewart.

The report Travel Expenditures Related To The Office Of The Governor General’s Secretary Since 2014 urged Rideau Hall to "publish an annual report on its activities" with financial statements attached.

MPs expressed outrage over Simon spending $1.17 million on a 2022 junket to Dubai, including $93,118 on inflight catering where her delegation dined on Beef Wellington, fresh salmon and gourmet cakes.

During a climate summit to Iceland, she billed taxpayers $71,000 for limousine rides. 

The governor general also spent another $37,000 for a wardrobe including silk jackets and "hundreds of dollars spent on limes and lemons to be used as garnishes for drinks."

The Rideau Hall budget last year totaled $24.7 million, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.

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