Massive renovation would shut down 24 Sussex for a year, cost $10 million: AG

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The stone residence that's supposed to house the prime minister in regal splendour is a drafty, outmoded plumbing nightmare that would take $10 million to fix, says the auditor general.

Even worse, the massive overhaul would kick out the honourable resident for more than a year, says Sheila Fraser in a report Tuesday to Parliament.

A tourist looks toward the Prime Minister's residence at 24 Sussex Dr. in Ottawa Tuesday. Photo by The Canadian Press

Ottawa - The stone residence that's supposed to house the prime minister in regal splendour is a drafty, outmoded plumbing nightmare that would take $10 million to fix, says the auditor general.

Even worse, the massive overhaul would kick out the honourable resident for more than a year, says Sheila Fraser in a report Tuesday to Parliament.

"Completely rehabilitating 24 Sussex Drive would cost about $10 million and would require full access to the residence for a minimum of 12 to 15 months."

Stephen Harper, however, has no plans to go anywhere "between now and the next election," says a spokeswoman.

"The prime minister and his family find 24 Sussex adequate to their needs, and see no need for substantial renovation programs at this time," said Carolyn Stewart Olsen.

Fraser says repairs are urgently needed, and that further delay will only drive up costs.

There have been no major renovations to the house overlooking a scenic view of the Ottawa River for 50 years. Built between 1866 and 1868, the pretty three-storey landmark features 34 rooms and sits on three hectares.

"What can I tell you?" the auditor general said when asked how one of the nation's prime pieces of real estate could have languished for so long.

"I'd be very surprised if there have been no major repairs to the White House in 50 years."

Among other work required at 24 Sussex, "the ceilings and interior walls of the residence will have to be opened up to install new air ducts for ventilation and air conditioning, to replace old electrical wiring, to install a sprinkler system for fire protection, to remove toxic materials such as asbestos or to monitor such materials, and to retrofit service areas."

Much of the residence is not fully accessible to those with limited mobility.

Fraser says she was assured that the prime minister and his family aren't in danger, but that significant work is overdue.

"The windows, the heating and air conditioning system, the electrical system and the plumbing are all nearing the end of their life cycle and are in poor condition.

"This creates significant loss of heat and steadily rising heating costs, as well as discomfort for the occupants."

Former residents Paul and Sheila Martin used to make a point of showing guests their picture windows - shrouded in plastic to block icy winter blasts.

Fraser says the National Capital Commission, which owns and oversees six official residences in the region, has used "sound management practices" to ensure these heritage treasures are conserved.

They include 24 Sussex; the Governor General's residence at Rideau Hall; the prime minister's holiday home at Harrington Lake; Stornaway, the official Opposition Leader's home; the Farm (Kingsmere) which houses the Commons speaker in the Gatineaus near Ottawa; and 7 Rideau Gate, the official residence for important visitors.

Organizations: National Capital Commission

Geographic location: Sussex, Ottawa, Ottawa River Harrington Lake Rideau Gate

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