24 Sussex a renovation project crying out for a bulldozer
The Canadian prime ministers' residence, 24 Sussex, is seen on the banks of the Ottawa River in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Friday, November 25, 2016 5:55PM EST
Perhaps Stephen Harper refused to surrender the keys to 24 Sussex Drive because he knew what was coming.
The mother of all home reconstructions with jaw-dropping sticker shock is being considered for the prime minister’s official residence.
And while all Justin Trudeau did was get out of the way to let the long-overdue retrofit take place, there’s a risk his reputation will wear the renovations.
After all, his father’s addition of a Sussex swimming pool, surely a perk worthy of the office, generated controversy as an extravagance.
So what to do about a house that lacks architectural flair, deep historical significance and, given last year’s $272,000 heating and hydro bill, clearly needs a lot more insulation and a better furnace?
Well, there’s no financial logic to a major gutting given the auditor general’s restoration estimate has quadrupled to $38 million in just six years, which is four times the property’s assessed value.
This house should not be a 35-room fixer-upper to illustrate the Liberal’s commitment to general contractor job creation.
It’s a demolition project, crying out for a bulldozer.
The only alternative is to strong arm the British into surrendering their High Commissioner’s residence as a worthy replacement.
Just a few hundred metres up the road, the majestic historic Earnscliffe mansion is where Sir John A Macdonald lived and died.
But to take even the lowest bid so far, a guesstimate which will surely double or more, would render 24 Sussex a national symbol of bureaucratic bloat and contractor padding.
There’s no blame on Prime Minister Trudeau for this. A mysterious force called the National Capital Commission will ultimately make the call.
But anyone who has been inside this howling wind tunnel, built by a lumberman as a wedding gift to his wife in 1868, knows this is a once-in-a-hundred-year residential reset opportunity which should be seized with sledgehammering enthusiasm.
Its only claim to fame is to have housed prime ministers for 65 years on a spectacular piece of river-view real estate.
It may be Canada’s most famous address. But it’s an historic address in need of a new house.
That’s the Last Word.