Trudeau's official residence faces 'significant' rodent infestation amid calls for $36.6 million renovation

In total, the prime minister's decaying residence costs $146,694 in annual upkeep despite remaining mostly vacant year-round.

Trudeau's official residence faces 'significant' rodent infestation amid calls for $36.6 million renovation
The Canadian Press / Sean Kilpatrick
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s official residence faces a significant rodent infestation. It became so dire that discovering carcasses within the walls and basement threatened air quality on the premises.

According to an access to information request by the National Post, National Capital Commission (NCC) staff detailed that the vacant 24 Sussex Drive is plagued by numerous safety concerns as its condition continues to deteriorate. 

The house has 34 rooms and covers approximately 12,000 square feet. By the end of December, no one lived or worked in the house — other than two staffed guard huts — after the Prime Minister’s Office ordered significant repairs and upgrades scheduled for this spring. 

The repairs “will include the abatement of designated substances such as asbestos, as well as the removal of obsolete mechanical, heating and electrical systems.”

“There is [also] a rodent infestation, which can’t be fully addressed until the building envelope issues are resolved,” read a note from last June.

“In the meantime, we use bait to control the situation, but that leaves us with excrement and carcasses between the walls and in the attic and basement spaces,” leading to “real concerns with air quality.”

The commission said the disrepair of 24 Sussex Drive is so urgent that it “must be completed regardless of any future decision on the residence” — even if it must eventually be torn down and replaced — including “matters of great concern such as potential fire hazards, water damage and air quality issues.”

Moreover, the costs of running the mansion remained high even after the staff moved out.

According to a separate but related access to information request by the Ottawa Citizen, the vacant 24 Sussex Drive had more than $8,000 in utility bills in January. 

Nobody lives and works there, but the house runs sky-high bills for heat, hydro and water — largely thanks to Pierre Trudeau’s indoor swimming pool and sauna, built in 1975 and paid for by anonymous private donors. But taxpayers foot the bill for its continued upkeep.

When asked who used the sauna and pool, the NCC referred the question to the Privy Council Office, who referred it to the PMO, who ultimately did not respond to the question.

Last winter, the home had monthly hydro bills in the $6,000 to $7,000 range, on top of gas bills of around $2,000.

Taxpayers spent $4,947 on hydro for the old house from December 31 to January 31 — compared to $6,710 for the previous hydro bill before everyone moved out. They also covered another $3,153 on gas in January, and $568 for water, billed over two months.

In total, the decaying residence costs $146,694 in annual upkeep despite remaining mostly vacant year-round.

Stephen Harper and his family last lived at 24 Sussex Drive, who left in 2015 after Trudeau became prime minister for the first time.

Until recently, six staff from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) still used some of the building as office space in the daytime, notably the prime minister’s chef and kitchen staff. The NCC redacted details in the access to information request on where they relocated staff. 

When questioned where they would prepare his meals, the NCC declined to comment other than to say that staff relocated to “another NCC property.”

A 2021 NCC asset portfolio report painted a grim picture on the state of the residence - the worst of all properties it maintains.

The NCC maintains the capital expenditures for the official residences portfolio averaged $6.1 million annually. According to the report, renovations for 24 Sussex Drive amount to $36.6 million to restore the home.

A 2022 NCC briefing note to the Privy Council Office claimed “no significant investment” had taken place in 24 Sussex Drive in over six decades, save for a series of emergency repairs and stabilization efforts over the years.

An Angus Reid poll conducted earlier this year reported 41% of Canadians support spending millions to renovate the home. Over a quarter (26%) said to tear it down without replacing it, while 33% want it torn down and replaced.

Franco Terrazzano, federal director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF), criticized the expensiveness of the renovations. “The NCC is like the contractor your buddy warns you never to hire because it’s only competent at ballooning the tab,” he said.

“An entire rethink is needed because taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for multiple mansions for the prime minister, and the leader of the opposition shouldn’t get a taxpayer-funded mansion. The status quo isn’t working and the NCC needs to come back with a plan to sort this mess out that doesn’t cost taxpayers an arm and a leg.”

 

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