Canadian Contractor

John Bleasby   

Renovators urgently needed for Ottawa fixer-upper

Canadian Contractor

This Sussex Drive reno contract is worth millions!

Strip away his inheritance and famous name, Justin is another post-grad drop-out/substitute teacher/family man between jobs. His rental house has been sold underneath him. What’s a guy to do?

Like many of his generation, Justin is moving back into his childhood home, rent free.

E.T. (left) and Justin Trudeau have at least one thing in common. They are going home!

E.T. (left) and Justin Trudeau have at least one thing in common. They are going home!

However, Justin Trudeau’s not just any normal person; he’s the PM-elect of Canada. And like E.T, our  J.T. is proving that you can go home again. Mind you, it’s not all upside. Not only will he be forced to sleep in the same bedroom where he was conceived 44 years ago, but where John and Olive Diefenbaker had intimate relations. Oh, if the walls could talk!

Just not ready!
The fact is, 24 Sussex Drive needs work. The National Capital Commission, the nice people who oversee all the ‘Official Residences’ in Ottawa, identified a number of structural and infrastructure deficiencies in the old pile back in the Auditor General’s report of 2008. “The NCC believes that rehabilitating the Prime Minister’s residence has become an urgent matter. It expects the work to take 12 to 15 months, if there are no unexpected complications.” (Those last words are a renovators dream, especially with a government contract!)

The 2008 NCC report on 24 Sussex Drive is summarised in this chart

The 2008 NCC report on 24 Sussex Drive is summarised in this chart

The report goes on to list many deficiencies. “The windows and caulking are cracked; and the tracks and windows are loose. …. The air conditioning units installed in the windows are nearing the end of their useful lives… The house was wired for electricity some fifty years ago and cannot meet increases in demand or new operational requirements…and does not have universal access for persons with reduced mobility… The plumbing system is deficient…Service areas such as the kitchen and the basement laundry are not functional.”

Now is the time to spend millions
If you or I do home improvements, the cost might run into the thousands. In Justin’s wealth bracket (the top 10% of the top 1%), costs can run into the hundreds of thousands. But when it’s a residence owned by the federal government, the cost gets into the millions of dollars. What’s a few extra zero’s?

In fact, the last rough estimate of costs to update the electrical, plumbing and windows alone were estimated at around $10 million back in 2008 , and you know how accurate a seven-year old government estimate is likely to be.

Optics always bad for spending at Sussex Drive
There have been no major renovations beyond changing the wallpaper (and the mattresses, we hope) since the 1950’s. The problem has been optics; no incoming Prime Minister wants to be seen triggering major spending on their own residence. No PM in office wants to move out mid-term for 12-15 months while work is being done. The locks might get changed!

Lots of complaints, very little action

Don't be fooled! According to those in the know, 24 Sussex Drive is not all that comfortable to live in.

Don’t be fooled! According to those in the know, 24 Sussex Drive is not all that comfortable to live in.

“You would bloody well freeze to death in the house.” whined Maureen McTeer, the wife of former PM Joe Clark several years ago. Sheila Martin, former PM Paul Martin’s wife, complained that the three-storey, 34-room home was too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer, so much so that it was almost unlivable. Even the Harper clan admitted they found some aspects of the residence uncomfortable.

The late NDP Leader Jack Layton once advised former PM’s to do work themselves: “I suggested to Mr. Martin and to Mr. Harper . . . that they should renovate the buildings based on energy savings. Get out a caulking gun, you know, and some insulation!”

Get in on the boon-doggle!
Optics aside, now is the perfect time to issue an open-ended renovation contract worth $10, $15… heck, even $20 million on Sussex Drive. The Liberals won’t re-boot the HRTC, however one of their election platforms was increased social spending, especially subsidised housing. Canadians concurred. And there’s no better example of ‘subsidised housing’ than 24 Sussex Drive.

So, if you’d like to add some zero’s to your company’s bottom line over the next year or so, hitch the trailer to your truck and get on over to Ottawa before Mike Holmes or Brian Bauemler have the place staked out!



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1 Comment » for Renovators urgently needed for Ottawa fixer-upper
  1. Marten says:

    Where do I sign up for this job. Pick me please!!!!!!!!!, I’m sure I can handle it. We could do fixed price or T and M, your choice.

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