Canada’s National Capital Commission (NCC), the federal agency that manages national heritage properties including the Prime Minister’s homes, was directed to construct a sprawling second mansion at Harrington Lake by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in late 2019 — shortly after the federal election in October and just days following turbulence in the marriage of Justin Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire, a source inside the PMO tells The Chronicle.
The $8.6 million in federal spending was not publicly disclosed until April of this year, which included $3 million to renovate the main house, $2.5 million to reconstruct and relocate what has been described as a caretaker’s house on the grounds, and $3.6 million to construct a second mansion that is intended for the Trudeaus’ use.
Just days after Gregoire threatened to divorce Trudeau last October, when she first began refusing to sleep under the same roof with him, the PMO ordered the NCC to proceed with millions of dollars in unplanned projects at the Prime Ministerial retreat.
“Spending millions of dollars to accommodate the evolving nature of the Prime Minister’s marriage is not fair to the Canadian taxpayer,” the disgruntled political staffer explains.
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said recently in the book, Promise and Peril (2019), that “Trudeau goes to Harrington Lake to get away and chill and not be judged when he’s chilling.“
Trudeau and Gregoire have experienced marital troubles since last October, and after a few short months of counseling, the couple has been separated since February. Gregoire has been living at Harrington Lake with their three children.
As a Crown corporation, the NCC is subject to the Access to Information Act, the Privacy Act and the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, as well as Government of Canada directives on proactive disclosure — though the Trudeau government has not been complying with the spirit of those rules, which aim to strengthen public sector management by enhancing transparency and oversight of public resources.
The NCC argues that $83 million in renovation projects is necessary to bring 24 Sussex to ‘Good’ condition (without ‘modernizing it’), and is now necessary to address fire hazards at the 34-room official residence. The Trudeaus have refused to reside in the Prime Minister’s official residence since taking office in 2015, despite former Prime Minister Stephen Harper using the property with no complaints.
Instead the Trudeaus chose to move into the recently renovated Rideau Cottage, on the grounds of the Governor General’s palace (known modestly as Rideau Hall). At the time, critics said that Trudeau’s complaints about the adequacy of 24 Sussex were contrived and disrespectful to taxpayers.
Beyond the one-time spending request, the NCC is also asking for an increase in annual appropriations of $24.6 million for ongoing maintenance, repairs and renovation projects. The NCC already spends spends $5 million annually on capital projects — repairs to the official residences and other projects in the Ottawa-Gatineau region.
More than $5 million has already been spent in 2015 and 2017 for security upgrades at Rideau Cottage, in order to accommodate Trudeau’s displeasure with the official residence at 24 Sussex.