More than half of Canadians want 24 Sussex Drive saved: Poll

24 Sussex Drive on May 30, 2018. Photo: Julie Oliver/Postmedia

Monday, August 26, 2019

OTTAWA SUN, By Antonella Artuso

A majority of Canadians want the most famous residence in the country — 24 Sussex Drive — to be renovated rather than torn down, a new poll shows.

The DART & Maru/Blue Voice Canada poll, undertaken for Sun News/Postmedia, found a resounding 78% believe the prime minister should have an official residence.

While 39% would support tearing down 24 Sussex and replacing it with a new build, 61% say they want it renovated and restored.

But Leslie Maitland, of Heritage Ottawa, said that support could become moot as the building decays before the nation’s eyes.

“We call this demolition by neglect — you just ignore it until it’s too far gone,” Maitland said. “That is irresponsible. That property belongs to the Canadian taxpayers.”

The building was constructed in 1868 and has been a family home to prime ministers since 1951, although Justin Trudeau refused to move into the aging structure.

“It’s part of this whole suite of buildings that are dedicated to Canada at the birth of a nation,” Maitland said, adding the government of Canada, regardless of party affiliation, is responsible for maintaining what is a Canadian investment.

Canada is the only G7 country that has no legislative protection for its national historic sites and monuments, she noted.

“Hard to believe but it’s true,” she said. “So there actually is no legislative protection for 24 Sussex even though it is classified as a federal heritage building.”

It’s the cost of repairs that has politically sensitive PMs wary. Who wants to be seen spending millions of dollars on renovations for a politician’s home?

The DART & Maru/Blue Voice Canada poll asked Canadians what would be a “reasonable” budget for renovating 24 Sussex. The average response was $14.2 million, although 54% thought $5 to $10 million was acceptable.

Just 3% to 4% thought $30 to $50 million should do nicely.

Problem is the National Capital Commission (NCC) has estimated the cost of bringing the place up to snuff is $34.5 million.

The poll did find some interest in having Canadians contribute directly to a renovation fund, with NCC matching dollar for dollar.

Heritage Ottawa is suggesting the federal government set up an independent commission to reach a resolution, Maitland said.

“We’re saying let’s take the politics out of it because, after all, any one of our leaders could end up living there in theory, and just get on with making a decision.”

 

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