Feds say prime minister's residence at 24 Sussex may be replaced rather than restored

OTTAWA — The prime minister's problem-plagued official residence could be replaced instead of restored, though the government says its plans are not complete.

A spokesperson for Procurement Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said building a new residence is among the options being considered as the department comes up with a plan for the future of 24 Sussex, but any conversations about that are at very early stages.

The minister's office said it is working with the National Capital Commission to develop a plan that it aims to release soon.

The historic house overlooking the Ottawa River is in dire need of repairs for everything from electrical work to windows, doors and the roof.

A 2021 report estimated it would cost at least $36.6 million just to complete the deferred maintenance on the main residence, which was built in 1868. Bringing it up to code would likely cost millions more.

A report last summer found the walls, attic and basement of the 34-room mansion were full of rodent carcasses and feces, which caused air quality issues that were partly responsible for the shutdown of the residence last fall.

The report also found water damage, flaking walls, rusting pipes and electrical issues that make the property a fire hazard.

Construction work began this spring to fix those critical issues, work the National Capital Commission says must be done regardless of the government's plans. It's expected this will take about a year.

In September, crews will start work to remove mechanical and electrical systems and clean up substances such as asbestos.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family never moved into the building, opting instead to live at nearby Rideau Cottage when he was first elected in 2015.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre told reporters Tuesday that refurbishing or replacing the official residence would not be important to him if he was in government.

"Of my list of priorities, this will probably be the last," he said at a press conference in Oshawa, Ont.

Poilievre, who lives at Stornoway, the official residence of the Opposition leader, said the prime minister's residence should be "a very basic, secure place" to live.

"I think they should be reasonable and practical, to provide for the ability to receive dignitaries ... and most important of all, have security," he said.

The building at 24 Sussex includes a state area where foreign dignitaries are received and a separate, private living area.

The NCC is legislated to oversee the grounds. A dozen prime ministers lived there between 1951 to 2015, including Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 29, 2023.

The Canadian Press