Justin Trudeau and family to live in Rideau Cottage, not 24 Sussex

Justin Trudeau will not move into the traditional prime minister’s residence at 24 Sussex Drive, at least until further notice.

Instead, the prime minister-designate and his family will live at Rideau Cottage, a 19th century home located on the grounds of Rideau Hall, the Governor General’s residence.

The cottage is actually a two-storey Georgian Revival brick home built in 1866-67 to serve as a home for the secretary to the governor general.

Annabelle Cloutier, a spokeswoman for Rideau Hall, said this will be the first time a prime minister has lived on the grounds of the governor general’s residence.

“It’s a big estate, so there is enough space for him to be living here and have his own private space with his family,” Cloutier said.

The grounds cover 32 hectares.

Rideau Cottage is located in an area not normally open to the public, but extra security will be provided on its perimeter.

The other areas of Rideau Hall normally open to the public will remain so.

“The grounds are open to the public, yes, because it’s the front of the residence of Rideau Hall that is open to the public and that remains the same,” said Cloutier.

The cottage was last renovated in 2013 by the National Capital Commission.

Stephen Wallace, the current secretary to Gov. Gen. David Johnston, moved out on the weekend to allow the Trudeaus to move in.

The residence at 24 Sussex has been in need of repairs for years.

In 2008, the National Capital Commission estimated repairs would cost about $10 million and would require full access to the residence for a minimum of 12 to 15 months.

A critical auditor general’s report issued that year said putting off the rehabilitation of the residence could have a number of consequences including “the risk of fostering a negative image of Canada with visiting foreign dignitaries.”

“The most recent work of an extensive nature carried out at 24 Sussex Drive dates back to when it was purchased by the government, over fifty years ago,” the report said. “It is therefore not surprising to note that a number of the residence’s systems are reaching the end of their useful lives, are in poor condition, and will have to be replaced in the near future.”

Broadcaster Catherine Clark, the daughter of former prime minister Joe Clark, produced a documentary on the residence last year.

She congratulated the Trudeaus on making the decision saying it is the right choice.

“I’m not surprised for a few reasons,” Clark said. “There is a very clear need for either full updating and renovation or rebuilding of a residence at 24 Sussex. It is so well documented at this point that it is a matter of making the right decision at the right time.”

Clark said she has spoken to former residents who complained about the heat during the summer months and the chill in the winter.

“There’s obviously an issue with technology and the house needs to be upgraded in a security sense as well,” she said. “If they’re going to rewire the house and make it a truly technology proficient place, that is going to be a big job in and of itself.”

Clark said she recalls her mother telling a story about an electrical problem they encountered in her father’s den more than 30 years ago.

“When they turned on a light on one side of the room, it blew the light out on the other side of the room,” Clark said. “Those are the kinds of things that happened in 1979, so you can imagine what kind of repairs are needed at this stage.”

The Liberals say Trudeau will make decisions regarding 24 Sussex once he has been fully briefed by officials.

Trudeau has rented a home in Ottawa’s upscale Rockcliffe Park neighbourhood since 2013.

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