Canada’s White House Is a Deathtrap, So Justin Trudeau Is Moving Into a 'Cottage'

Trudeau has had to put off the move into 24 Sussex, which has been the official residence for Canada’s prime minister since 1951, because the crumbling structure could actually prove dangerous for its inhabitants.
Justin Ling
Montreal, CA
October 28, 2015, 12:15am
Trudeau strides by Parliament/The Canadian Press

Prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau will not — like many of the millennials who voted for him — be moving back into his parent's home. At least not yet.

The newly-elected leader will be shacking up in the backyard of Governor General David Johnston at the Rideau Cottage, a stately two-story brick house that usually houses the governor general's secretary.

Trudeau has had to put off the move into 24 Sussex, which has been the official residence for Canada's prime minister since 1951, because the crumbling structure could actually prove dangerous for its inhabitants.

The 43 year-old prime minister-designate grew up in the building during the tenure of his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who served as prime minister from 1968 until 1984 (except for a brief interruption in 1979).

Renovations for the 147-year-old building have been put off for years, as outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper resisted moving his family out in order to allow the renovations to go forward.

In 2008, Canada's Auditor General wrote in 2008 that the windows in 24 Sussex were cracking, the electrical system was at a breaking point, and that the residence, "which functions as a reception area for distinguished national and international guests, does not have universal access for persons with reduced mobility" and cannot accommodate wheelchairs.

"A number of the residence's systems are reaching the end of their useful lives, are in poor condition, and will have to be replaced in the near future," the report found.

In assessing the residence, it found that the roofing was roughly "good" while every other aspect — the walls, windows, foundation and chimney — were somewhere between "fair" to "critical."

The National Capital Commission, which manages the estate, ranked 24 Sussex — as well as Rideau Hall, which is the Governor General's residence — were most the most "high risk" properties under their control.

While the commission says progress has been made, it notes that there is work to be done, including "upgrades to the windows, fire suppression system, plumbing, and heating and air conditioning system; the remainder of the electrical improvements; and the implementation of universal accessibility standards."

The building has not had any sort of renovations in 50 years.

The cost, at least for the urgent renovations, will be somewhere in the ballpark of $10 million. A 2011 report estimated that the full upgrades, which will include efforts to "green" the space, could take 15 months — that is, once they get the money.

In the meantime, Trudeau, his wife, and their three children will need to squat at the Rideau Cottage.

But while its name may sound a bit small, the house — which sits on the massive 88-acre grounds that are partially open to the public — has 22 rooms and, according to a spokesperson for the grounds, "there is enough space for him to be living here and have his own private space with his family."

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