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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Will Rat-Infested 24 Sussex Drive Be Changed?

The saga of 24 Sussex Drive, the derelict onetime official residence of Canada’s prime ministers, took a brand new flip final week after a information leak signaled that the destiny of the house — Canada’s most well-known fixer-upper — might quickly be determined.

Citing an unnamed official, Radio-Canada reported final week {that a} authorities group in control of determining what to do with the uninhabitable and rodent- and asbestos-infested home — which has been deserted since 2015 — is now leaning towards giving up on it. As a substitute, the group favors beginning over by constructing a brand new home at one among two different places. Alternatively, the group is making Rideau Cottage, the place Justin Trudeau moved after turning into prime minister, the everlasting dwelling of Canada’s head of presidency.

Whereas 24 Sussex solely grew to become the prime minister’s official dwelling in 1951, the concept of completely abandoning it was swiftly condemned by some constructing heritage specialists. However political calculations could finally determine the proposal’s destiny.

Regardless of 24 Sussex’s symbolic significance, its fall into close to break has been occurring for many years, as I wrote nearly 5 years in the past. And the shortage of will to reverse its decline comes from a concern of political backlash. As Mr. Trudeau, who lived in the home as a baby when his father was prime minister, as soon as mentioned: “No prime minister needs to spend a penny of taxpayer {dollars} on upkeeping that home.”

[Read: Justin Trudeau’s Official Home: Unfit for a Leader or Anyone Else]

Whereas 24 Sussex was in a dismal state once I wrote that article, with an estimated restoration value of 38 million Canadian {dollars} on the time, the state of affairs has turn out to be even worse. In 2021, the Nationwide Capital Fee, the federal company whose duties embrace taking care of Canada’s six official residences, rated its situation as “essential” in a report.

“The constructing methods at 24 Sussex Drive have reached the purpose of imminent or precise failure and require alternative,” that report warned, including, “the age and situation of {the electrical} methods poses a fireplace hazard, and the plumbing methods have failures frequently.”

In April, The Nationwide Publish obtained authorities paperwork that exposed there was a rodent infestation in the home. So many useless rodents and a lot rodent excrement had piled up in its partitions, attic and basement, a memo mentioned, that there have been “actual considerations with air high quality.”

After Mr. Trudeau moved into Rideau Cottage within the yard of Rideau Corridor, the governor normal’s official dwelling, a few of his employees remained working within the kitchen at 24 Sussex, which is throughout the road. The family kitchen in Rideau Cottage is far smaller and lower than office security requirements, so Mr. Trudeau’s meals have been ferried throughout Sussex Drive. However even the cooks have been moved out of 24 Sussex final November and the constructing was formally closed.

The Nationwide Capital Fee didn’t immediately reply my questions on the opportunity of a brand new prime minister’s residence at a brand new location. However in an electronic mail, Valérie Dufour, a spokeswoman, mentioned that contractors had been at 24 Sussex since Could and that “pre-construction web site preparation is full.” This month, quite a lot of duties will start, together with ripping out the “mechanical and electrical methods” there.

She added: “The present mission will perform the work that have to be addressed no matter any determination taken by the federal government on the way forward for the residence.”

The Radio-Canada report means that the largest consider favor of constructing a brand new official residence is safety. Latest years have seen Parliament surrounded by the rowdy trucker convoy and a gunman kill a soldier on guard on the Nationwide Conflict Memorial earlier than then occurring a taking pictures rampage in Parliament. In 2020, a army reservist from Manitoba smashed by way of the gates of Rideau Corridor with a pickup truck earlier than heading on foot towards Rideau Cottage with a revolver, a pistol, a rifle and two shotguns to, he mentioned, arrest Mr. Trudeau. The prime minister was not dwelling.

Amongst its many safety issues, 24 Sussex is simply steps from the road, making safety from a automobile or truck bomb infeasible with out turning the residence right into a bunker. (Closing the highway, which is a significant route with no apparent different, shouldn’t be attainable.) Retrofitting the home’s roof for cover from drone assaults, it seems, poses comparable difficulties.

Even with out an official announcement, the suggestion of abandoning 24 Sussex has swiftly met resistance. At a information convention on Friday, a gaggle of heritage specialists argued the case for renovating the home as an alternative. Residents close to the park that is likely one of the proposed websites for a brand new residence have additionally raised considerations concerning the lack of public area.

However finally the political dynamic that has lengthy stalled coping with the home could proceed to maintain its future in limbo.

“We don’t want a brand new dwelling for the prime minister, we’d like a brand new dwelling for working-class Canadians,” Pierre Poilievre, the Conservative chief who lives in a government-funded official residence, informed reporters. He added that coping with 24 Sussex could be the final merchandise on his agenda if he turns into prime minister and that Mr. Trudeau was targeted on “constructing mansions for himself.”

A local of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Instances for 20 years.

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