24 Sussex – that’s our home, not theirs

Photo by Colin Clarke

Canada can’t provide housing for thousands of its citizens or its prime minister.

The former issue is a tragedy. The prolonged agony over 24 Sussex Drive, the PM’s official residence, is starting to feel like a farce. 

The old Norman-style mansion has been derelict for years and is now a rodent-infested, asbestos-laden health hazard.

Actually, most of the rats are dead at 24 Sussex, as are many of the prime ministers who have lived there since 1951, when Louis St. Laurent became the first PM to occupy it.

We offer no disrespect to either deceased rats or former prime ministers by putting them in the same sentence. Our point is that 24 Sussex is owned not by its temporary residents but by the people of Canada.

It is our place, a house where Justin Trudeau might have taken up temporary lodging if he or his predecessors had bothered to look after it. (Instead, he lives with his family across the road at Rideau Cottage, located on the grounds of Government House.)

24 Sussex is a place where the serving Prime Minister of Canada (the individual) should live for his brief tenure. It is also the place where The Prime Minister of Canada should always live.

That makes 24 Sussex both a home and a symbol of proud nationhood – as the White House is in the United States.

Our political leaders don’t get this. Mr. Trudeau, like Stephen Harper before him, has refused to spend money on 24 Sussex. Both feared criticism from Opposition MPs and the public for any renovations to the home – as if it were theirs and not ours.

Well, it’s time to establish an official prime ministerial residence worthy of the nation. The current government can easily find the $40 million or so needed for this job in its petty cash drawer. (After all, this administration has hired an additional 80,000 employees since 2014, while annual spending since then has soared by $151 billion.)

Canada should either build a new residence at 24 Sussex, the iconic Canadian address, or renovate the aging hulk built by a lumber baron in the 1860s for his young bride. As long as the result is a seaworthy ship of state, we in the CrowsNest will be content.

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