National Capital Commission concerned about fate of ’24 Sussex’

OTTAWA — Nearly a year before “24 Sussex” closed due to general decay and an infestation of rodents last fall, the chief executive of the National Capital Commission (CNN) warned the federal cabinet that a decision on how fate the official residence would be further delayed would be further delayed endanger entire listed buildings.

Located on prime waterfront land just a few miles from Parliament Hill on Sussex Drive, the 34-room mansion served as the residence of Canada’s prime ministers since 1950 – until its temporary closure in 2015.

Concerns about the building’s deterioration prompted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family to move to another official residence after his election in October 2015. For nearly eight years, the Trudeaus have lived at Rideau Cottage on the Governor’s grounds. The General’s residence, Rideau Hall, is nearby.

Since this step, the liberal federal cabinet has repeatedly postponed the decision to restore the cultural heritage. In fact, it’s a bit of a basket full of political crabs. In 2018, Mr Trudeau remarked that no Prime Minister dared spend taxpayers’ money on ’24 Sussex’.

But in January 2022, National Capital Commission chief executive Marc Seaman wrote to Filomena Tassi, then Minister for Public Services and Procurement, expressing “concern at the delay of a Cabinet decision beyond December 2021.”

The concerns are detailed in a briefing note from the Privy Council Office, the administrative arm of the federal cabinet. The memo was obtained from The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

In the memo, parts of which have been redacted, Mr Seaman states that he “wants to express the Council’s firm view that continued postponement (…) poses real risks both to the physical integrity of the building itself and to us.” .” ability to fulfill our fiduciary responsibilities as stewards of this very important listed building on behalf of all Canadians.

rodent infestation

The property has been used for outdoor entertainment since 2015 and staff still used some of the rooms. But in July 2022, Mr Seaman briefed the government on the commission’s plans to close the hostel entirely, saying the work to be carried out “in no way prejudges future decisions by the federal government on the use and purpose of the hostel”.

Last autumn, amid rodent infestations, fears of a fire from electrical problems and exceptional water damage, the Commission concluded that ’24 Sussex’ now posed a real risk to the health and safety of the remaining staff still working there.

The building was therefore officially closed to get rid of the aging equipment and asbestos. It will remain closed for at least next year, according to commission spokeswoman Valerie Dufour, as contractors moved in to start work last week.

Officials attribute the mansion’s decay to successive governments’ reluctance to “spend taxpayers’ money” to properly repair and maintain the official residence, originally built in Currier in 1868 by wealthy businessman Joseph Merrill.

A spokeswoman for Public Services and Procurement Secretary Helena Jaczek, who replaced Ms Tassi in the portfolio last August, said on Thursday she was continuing to work with the Commission “to develop a plan for the future of 24 Sussex Drive”. .

The commission said the federal government is reviewing options for the property, which spans more than two acres and includes a 12,000-square-foot, 34-room main building, a smaller building, a pool pavilion and two guard stations.

A building that is no longer modern

A draft report on official residence revitalization, also available to the Canadian press, shows that the commission offered the government a number of specific options, including a recommended approach and a “pros and cons list”. However, details on these options are being redacted.

The documents also reveal other problems at the residence – beyond its dilapidated condition. It is believed that the layout and security measures are insufficient to serve as the Prime Minister’s official modern residence, intended for housing dignitaries and various social events.

In particular, the poor accessibility, the insufficient room size and the lack of adjoining rooms such. B. Toilets accessible to people with reduced mobility are mentioned.

The documents also note that while around 20% of the space is earmarked for the prime minister and his family to stay in, privacy remains an issue as “there is no clear division between private and official spaces”.

A 2021 commission report on the state of its assets said 24 Sussex needed $36 million in deferred maintenance to be completed, not including safety or other infrastructure improvements.

Jordan Johnson

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