DISCUSSIONS: 3- PM official residence: renovate or rebuild ?

PM Trudeau lives in a “cottage.”


Justin Trudeau rejected residence at 24 Sussex Dr. in favour of his family residing at Rideau Cottage on the Governor General’s Rideau Hall grounds.[Topic suggested by Helene B.]

Trudeau had lived at 24 Sussex as a child with his father, Pierre. Therefore, he would know the issues with the house very well. Very likely because of the limited work that has been done to the residence, living there has many discomforts due to an archaic heating system, an outdated electrical system and probably problem plagued plumbing. Sophie likely had a very strong input into the relocation of the family to the newer Rideau Cottage.

History of Sussex Dr.
Built in 1866, Sussex Drive was became government property by expropriation in 1943. Legal squabbles finally cleared and in 1950 it was designated as the official residence of the Prime Minister. It had $500,000 worth of renovations carried out to elevate it to proper living conditions for the PM. It has been the official residence of every PM since then except for Kim Campbell and Justin Trudeau.

Legacies of many official fingerprints
As no restrictions have ever been put on the residence, many of its residents have left their mark on the home from Lester Pearson’s patio and winterization to Joe Clark’s embellishments with gold leaf, to father Trudeau installing a pool, to Brian Mulroney renovating and publicizing the expenditures.

Historical/national considerations:
Security issues notwithstanding, the residence undoubtedly needs renovation. Estimates have varied over the years and are now pegged at over $40,000,000. Canadians would balk at that expense, and may arguably have a legitimate point. Perhaps Maureen McTeer was closer to hitting the nail on the head by suggesting that the residence has no real architectual worth. So, it may be more sensible to raze the place and rebuild from scratch.

However, there are very important considerations to make. Consider the question of historical legacy: should Canadians have an official residence which becomes the historical legacy of the nation? Or should the PM simply live like a regular businessman which may be demeaning the office from one with historical overtones to being one that is civilian, or secular if you will.

The discussion here may be one which pits traditionalists against modernists. Traditionalist will support the idea of historical roots and historical legacies for future generations. Whereas modernists eschew the romantic view held for traditionalist for the more practical, more utilitarian position that it is merely housing. It has no real impact on the country and no historical value as the PM is not the head of the Canadian government.

On a practical note, the renovation estimates suggest costs may not be as proper as they should be when one reads that current renovation estimates are north of $40 mill. Something does not feel right even with housing costs as high as they are in Canada today. McTeer may be right. $40 million would buy a very significant residence in Ottawa, one which no Prime Minister would find as inadequate.

What do you think? Do you side with Maureen McTeer? Do you feel the ‘modernists’ are right? Or do you feel ‘traditionalists’ are closer to doing the right thing for the country? What is your opinion on the question of 24 Sussex Dr.: renovate or rebuld ?

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