Crumbling 24 Sussex makes Canada look like 'a bunch of cheap guys': Chretien
Published Sunday, October 25, 2015 10:59AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, October 25, 2015 11:00AM EDT
Former prime minister Jean Chretien is adding his voice to the choir of calls for a long-overdue renovation of 24 Sussex, saying that the crumbling official residence makes Canada look like a “bunch of cheap guys.”
Chretien told CTV’s Question Period that it’s about time the prime minister’s official residence got some tender loving care.
“It is not for him (the prime minister), it is for the state,” said Chretien. “If they can fix the problem, we will look better because it’s not very nice when you look like a bunch of cheap guys.”
Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau’s mother Margaret revealed in a radio interview Friday that her son and his family won’t likely move into the residence anytime soon because of the need for “major infrastructure repair.” Trudeau wouldn’t confirm that he plans to live elsewhere, but he did say in 2012 that his “old home” was “slowly crumbling.”
That is something to which Chretien can also attest. He recounted several stories about the rundown home during his time as prime minister, from 1993 to 2003.
“I was there with my wife and we had to put in the bedroom an electric heater. And, bam! The electricity would go in the middle of the night because it was too much,” said Chretien.
He also remembered a hot July afternoon when he and then-U.S. Vice-President Al Gore sat in his sweltering, non-air-conditioned living room.
“(Gore) had his vest, plus his coat, and I had in the window a little machine that you turn with your hand. That was the air conditioning of the prime minister of Canada.”
Chretien admitted he was hesitant to spend anything on home repairs while he was living at 24 Sussex.
“The difficulty we have in Canada, when you spend that on the house, the press writes that the prime minister spent money.”
He recalled a time when he almost called the media to come to the residence and see for themselves a bucket that was collecting water from the leaky roof. The roof was eventually blown off in a storm -- and subsequently replaced -- before he had the chance to call the press though.
Fellow former prime ministers Brian Mulroney and Paul Martin have also expressed concerns about the building’s state. And in 2008, then-Auditor General Shelia Fraser wrote that repairs had become “urgent,” citing “toxic” asbestos.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not want to move out for the year-long period required to finally make the $10 million in fixes to the 34-room, 10,000-square-foot mansion.
Another housing alternative for the Trudeau family is Harrington Lake, the official summer residence of the prime minister, located a 30-minute drive outside Ottawa.