Feds defend $8 million bill for a '1960s garage' at Rideau Hall

On October 18, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) disclosed Rideau Hall's solar powered 'barn' cost taxpayers $8,039,853 — under budget by half a million dollars.

Feds defend $8 million bill for a '1960s garage' at Rideau Hall
National Capital Commission Website
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Government officials continue to defend their $8 million solar powered "barn" as a good use of taxpayer dollars.

On October 18, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) disclosed its costs at $8,039,853 — under budget by half a million dollars. The total cost included a million dollars in contingencies and risks.

"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. 

Conservative MP Jake Stewart concurred, calling it an "egregious waste of taxpayer money."

On October 24, the Commons public affairs committee unanimously approved summoning federal managers to answer for the expensive taxpayer bill.

“The project budget authority was $8.6 million,” testified Tobi Nussbaum, CEO of the National Capital Commission (NCC), which built the warehouse. 

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According to Blacklock’s Reporter, MPs disputed the testimony, asking how the NCC could spend $8 million on "a barn that houses zero people and provides no economic benefit."

"From photos we’ve seen it looks more like a detached garage with four doors or a cement building with some solar panels on it," said Stewart, who described the project as "ridiculous" when "people literally can’t afford to eat in this country."

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.

While Nussbaum agreed that "eight million dollars is a lot of money," he explained that groundskeepers at the Governor General’s official residence used the warehouse. 

"Not only is the building net zero carbon but it also generates 40 percent of the energy it requires to operate," said the official.

Stewart told Nussbaum that "everybody involved failed miserably to achieve value for money."

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Despite receiving approval for the project in June 2019, construction did not begin until July 2020, according to the CTF. After several "change orders" to the "barn," construction finished in the winter of 2021.

"You actually put an elevator in this building," added Stewart.

"Where does the elevator go?" asked Conservative MP John Nater. Nussbaum replied: "The elevator goes down into the basement — a place where we store a lot of the materials, a lot of the equipment."

"The National Capital Commission takes its role as steward of public funds extremely seriously as it fulfills its mandate of building an inspiring capital while conserving, maintaining and restoring its extensive natural and built assets for future generations," he said.

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According to Terrazzano, it appears the NCC wants to "spend as much money as possible," with another $175 million required to "restore" those buildings over the coming decade. 

A recent report by the taxpayers' group found the commission had spent a whopping $135 million renovating and maintaining Canada's six official residences from 2006 to 2022.

Bloc Québécois MP Julie Vignola told the committee the $8 million warehouse did not appear to be special. "It is really more of a garage," she said. 

"When I examine the cost and look at how the building turned out I wonder," added Vignola. "It looks like a 1960s garage — [not] a heritage building."

Nevertheless, staff from the Treasury Board and Department of Public Works are also slated to speak on the "barn," with a subsequent report to the Commons due at a later date.

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