Feds may drop prime minister's 'neglected' residence and build him a new home: sources

After Justin Trudeau became prime minister in 2015, he and his family refused to move into 24 Sussex Drive because of the extensive renovations required after years of neglect.

Feds may drop prime minister's 'neglected' residence and build him a new home: sources
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick, Ethan Cairns
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The historic yet dilapidated 24 Sussex Drive may be dropped as the prime minister's official residence as the federal government considers other sites for a replacement.

According to security sources, the residence has been neglected for decades, with the surrounding area too small to meet modern security standards, reported the CBC.

With the idyllic Rockcliffe Park among the contenders, should 24 Sussex be demolished, another option being examined is to move the official residence permanently to Rideau Cottage on the grounds of Rideau Hall. The feds insist they have yet to make a final choice.

After Justin Trudeau became prime minister in 2015, he and his family refused to move into 24 Sussex because of the extensive renovations required after years of neglect.

Earlier this year, the National Capital Commission (NCC) announced they would close the residence to remove the faulty heating and electrical systems set to begin in September.

The house also suffers from mold in the pool and sauna area, rodent infestations and asbestos that are detrimental to health.

"The initial preference was to renovate 24 Sussex, but no one realized the extent of the necessary renovations," said a government source familiar with the deliberations at the time.

Since 2016, Trudeau has been living at Rideau College in a "temporary" arrangement.

"There is no option that has unanimous support, and every option has its pros and cons," a federal government source told CBC.

However, a former Privy Council clerk did not mince his words, calling it "embarrassing" that a G7 country can't provide a safe, secure residence for the head of government and their family.

But Michael Wernick, who served as the head of the federal public service from 2016 to 2019, contends there is "no way" to make 24 Sussex " safe at a reasonable cost."

While Trudeau planned to renovate 24 Sussex in his first mandate, the federal government rolled back the decision due to the public backlash that would ensue due to its enormous price tag.

In a 2021 report, the NCC estimated that the "deferred maintenance deficit" at 24 Sussex stood at $37 million. The figure does not include the need to modernize security at a cost of tens of millions of dollars.

"In 1951, it was a good choice to install our prime minister here, but now the building is no longer up to standard," said Pierre-Yves Bourduas, a former RCMP deputy commissioner once responsible for detailing the security on the premises.

"Security has changed enormously over the past ten years, and in this context, we need to rethink the location of the prime minister's residence."

He contends that the proximity of 24 Sussex to a busy street makes it harder for local law enforcement to stop an attack on the prime minister and their family.

Security would also need to reinforce the residence with steel plates on the roof to prevent drone attacks, turning it into a " bunker."

Should the prime minister's residence be relocated, the NCC suggests the dwelling should have a primary bedroom, four bedrooms for children and three bedrooms to accommodate other guests.

They add that it should also be able to accommodate groups of at least 15 to 30 people for professional meetings.

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