The prime minister’s official residences in Ottawa and at Harrington Lake are both in “critical condition,” according to a new report from the National Capital Commission.

The report states that the 1868-built home at 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa, which had its last “major renovation” in 1951, has now reached the point of “imminent or actual failure.”

Over the decade from 2006 to 2016, when Stephen Harper was prime minister, about $6 million was spent on capital improvements and $2.8 million on operations at the residence. The NCC says that wasn’t nearly enough, and that the following problems remain:

  • An electrical system that “poses a fire hazard”
  • A lack of accessible washrooms
  • Regular plumbing system failures
  • Window air conditioners that are costly and “pose a security risk”
  • Asbestos “throughout many interior finishes.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau chose not to move into the official residence after his 2015 swearing in, opting instead to live across the street at Rideau Cottage.

The prime minister’s other official residence, at Harrington Lake in Pontiac, Que., was built in 1925 and acquired by the federal government in 1951.

“The last significant construction work took place in 2005 and consisted of improvements to the electrical system, installation of a sprinkler system, reroofing, and the construction of a sunroom,” according to the NCC.

The building, which Trudeau and his family sometimes use, continues to need “critical rehabilitations” for the exterior envelope including doors, windows, attic, foundations and chimneys, according to the report.

The caretaker’s house, meanwhile, has been closed for several years “due to instability and other health and safety concerns,” the report claims.

Just under $1.7 million was spent on capital and about $1.9 million was spent on operations and maintenance on Harrington Lake between 2006 and 2016, the report says.

Meanwhile, the official residence of the speaker of the House of Commons, The Farm in Chelsea, Que., is listed in the report in “poor” condition, a rating one step up from “critical.”

Rideau Hall, where Governor General Julie Payette lives, and Stornoway, which is home of the Leader of the Official Opposition, Andrew Scheer, were both rated as “good.”

Concerns about the state of repair at the prime minister’s residences date back decades. Observers say they don’t get fixed because the opposition is likely to pounce on the use of taxpayer dollars to do major renovations.

Earlier this summer, Scheer criticized Trudeau for the installation of a $7,500 play structure at Harrington Lake, suggesting the NCC should instead have bought one from Walmart that cost less than $200.

The NCC is asking for a one-time injection of $83 million over 10 years for deferred maintenance and an increase in annual appropriations of $24.6 million. That NCC currently receives about $23 million per year.


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