It’s a dump, but it’s his dump.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper will tough it out at 24 Sussex Drive, his official residence in Ottawa, despite warnings it desperately needs up to 15 months’ worth of renovations, after 50 years of neglect.
An auditor’s report indicates that dangerous decay and an outmoded electrical, ventilation and plumbing system at the three-hectare estate have put in peril a prize holding in Canada’s real estate collection.
The federal government purchased the 140-year-old house in 1943 and turned it into an official residence overlooking the Ottawa River. Louis St. Laurent, the Liberal prime minister of the day, took possession in 1951.
Now, cracked window seals are causing large heating bills, a 50-year-old electrical system is at full capacity and the plumbing is deficient.
But the political hot potato of a sitting PM paying $10 million to overhaul his house won’t fall to Harper. A PMO spokesman said the building is “adequate to (the Harpers’) needs and (they) see no reason for a substantial renovation project at this time.”
But a national treasure risks becoming a national embarrassment. Auditor General Sheila Fraser said she’d be surprised if urgent repairs went unheeded at the White House for 50 years. And the National Capital Commission appeared relieved that the auditor general had made their case.
“This is the first time we have the data that we have. We haven’t had the numbers and justification like this before,” said Marie Lemay, chief executive of the NCC.