The Canadian PM's Residence Is a Dump

Rodents, asbestos, sketchy wiring and plumbing explains why Justin Trudeau doesn't live there
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2023 4:30 PM CDT
Canada's White House Is a Rat-Infested Health Hazard
The official home of Canada's prime minister, 24 Sussex Drive, on the south bank of the Ottawa River.   (Wikimedia Commons/sookie)

The official residence of Canada's prime minister—a 155-year-old, four-floor, 35-room mansion at 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa—has been vacant since 2015. When Justin Trudeau came into office that year, he opted to move his family into a smaller, two-floor, 22-room home on the grounds of Rideau Hall, the official residence of the governor general. And it's no wonder why. Documents from the National Capital Commission, obtained by the National Post, show the mansion to be a health hazard, with asbestos, mold, rusty water pipes, old electrical wiring that presents a fire risk, and a rodent infestation that "leaves us with excrements and carcasses between the walls and in the attic and basement spaces."

Meals for the prime minister and his family were still prepared in the mansion's kitchens up until November, when the decision was made to close the residence so workers could remove hazards and replace obsolete mechanical, heating, and electrical systems this spring, per the Post. But the long-term future of the building is unclear. There are ongoing discussions as to whether the mansion should be renovated, another home for the prime minister purchased, or a new one built from the ground up. In 2021, the NCC estimated it would cost about $27 million to get 24 Sussex Drive in "good condition." But for that price, you could "buy all 10 of the most expensive homes currently for sale in the Ottawa area," the Post points out.

The last major renovations were completed in 1951, per the BBC. In the ensuing decades, prime ministers faced hard questions about their use of taxpayer funds for home upgrades. Opponents cast Pierre Elliott Trudeau's updates to the kitchen and security as "lavish," while Brian Mulroney endured a scandal over closets for his wife's shoes. "Politically, spending money on 24 Sussex became as toxic as the asbestos in its walls," the BBC notes. But the mood may now be changing. It's time to decide on a path forward, writes Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson, noting the "increasingly absurd embarrassment" of 24 Sussex Drive "does not speak well" of Canadians. "The longer the government waits, the higher the cost will be," he adds. (More Canada stories.)

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