Tear down 24 Sussex?

What should be done with the PM’s home? Tell us what you think.


I have stalled as long as I could but I’m off to the budget lockup. While we’re all stuck in there, here‘s something else to debate: is 24 Sussex Dr., the residence of the prime minister, a “heritage” building that must be preserved — even though political pressure will always discourage its tenant-of-the-moment from doing necessary maintenance, so the whole place is constantly a tad run-down — or should it be razed in favour of a brand-new building? Or should the PM and his family pay rent on the open market like proper folk? It’s your debate, but I should say I find myself in the unaccustomed position of agreeing with Maureen McTeer.

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Tear down 24 Sussex?

  1. Plus, Harper could finally make room for the tapestries and mead benches.

  2. Only Canadians would be asked to debate by our snide media whether an historic building like this should be preserved at a cost that is, in all likelihood, a tiny fraction of the what the government can waste in a year.

    How about we debate the hundreds of millions of dollars the government is having to pay out on badly-executed military procurement?

    • Please go right ahead. Also an excellent topic.

      • Aren’t you locked up yet?

        I think the idea of replacing 24 Sussex is abominable and I can only guess Maureen McTeer is now in full-blown dotage. We don’t need a monument to the greatness of the Prime Minister; we need to fix an anchor to our own history.

        When I think of how Toronto used to look before “urban renewal,” and compare it to historic Montreal, I can’t help but cry.

        • Good point about the anchor.

          Did Toronto used to look nice? It’s gotten better in the last ten years, seemingly. But the whole Nathan Philips Square thing does seem tragic, even to someone like me who never knew it beforehand.

          • Did Toronto used to look nice?

            I don’t think it looked “nice” before the post-war era (most of it was always kind of rough), but it had a lot of historical buildings that were razed without much thought during “urban renewal.” It was only later (at the time people starting thinking that running an elevated expressway down Spadina Avenue sounded like a great idea) that people started questioning what had been done to the city in the name of progress.

            Once you start walking around a city more, you start understanding just how alienating most modern architecture is. And like it or not, we will soon be coming to a time when we will have to walk around our cities more often.

          • I only walk around the old parts of Toronto. :)

            Expressway down Spadina Avenue?! Thank God those people are gone.

            I used to live in the single most disastrous example of failed urban renewal in the world bar none — and I don’t say that lightly. Worcester, Massachusetts. They literally annihilated the downtown core, full of fine old Victorian brownstones, to build a huge shopping mall that . . . died, and is still sitting there. When that didn’t work they built three huge freeways straight through the centre of town, so that it’s literally impossible to get from one part of downtown to the other, or at least it involves a convoluted 30-minute detour. I shudder to think of such a thing happening to Toronto, though the mismanagement of the lakeshore is an epic unto itself. Every few months somebody suggests tearing down the Gardiner Expressway, which might help with the air circulation and get people to walk down to the Lake. (I walk a lot but never lake-wards; it’s like Shell Beach in Dark City to me.) I do rather miss living in Montreal, from a walking point of view.

          • They literally annihilated the downtown core, full of fine old Victorian brownstones, to build a huge shopping mall that . . . died, and is still sitting there.

            That’s happened all over North America and it has been a disaster. Once the novelty of the stores wears off (which happens quickly, since it’s the same stores from coast-to-coast) or people find going downtown too much of a transportation nightmare to bother with, you’re left with a husk of building too dreary to care about.

        • Haha – “I officially deride our snide media for briefly menioning a topic so utterly unworthy of comment. The very notion of such a discussion is beneath me and is an insult to my far more important thoughts and concerns but if you absolutely must know what I think…”

          • Calling something a distraction and a waste of resources is not necessarily itself a waste of resources.

    • Would the British consider tearing down 10 Downing? I doubt it. Get Mike Holmes in there to check it out and renovate it. That would make great TV.

      As for military procurement, well it would certainly be easier if there was 3 departments (TB, PWGSC and DND) involved. The 3 have far differnent agendas, briefing standards and wildly different timetables. The worst part is that one department (DND) maybe chugging along with the project thinking that the next briefing will get it closer to the approval stage while over at PWGSC some mid level buearucrat has failed to inform his supervisor that the DND briefing note needs to be on the minister’s desk yesterday. This mistake means that the minister will not be available until next month, which causes a traffic jam of paperwork that takes even more time to unravel.

      Whats the solution? Hell if I know but anything has to be better than what there is now.

      PS. Maybe if the Libs and Cons could get together on a coherant equipment list for the military (and Coast Guard and DFO) then we might be able to stop these boom and bust cycles every time a new government is sworn in!

      • Get Mike Holmes in there…

        Well, given the film/TV subsidy his production company gets (see credits at the end of the show), even this allegedly private-sector “Make it Right!” entertainer is working with taxpayer money.

        I, too, am with Ms. Mcteer: if we want the best people to run for the job of running this place, it might be nice to offer a compensation worthy of the post.

        Have a quick debate, settle on getting ‘er done, and get ‘er done. Same address, new address, whatever. A drafty, creaky fire-trap is not the kind of place to attract the next crop of political stewards.

  3. In all seriousness, if the PM started paying rent, they could surely justify it.

    I agree with Ti-Guy, though, that it’s absurd to have a debate about whether our Head of Government should be housed in a tin shack. And even more absurd that 75% of our fellow countrymen would think it natural that he or she should.

    Military procurement . . . you mean demolish it by airstrike? That could work.

    Seriously, though, we do live in a time of good architecture — well, interesting is the adjective normally used — so now might be a good moment to act. Given the way our architects think, you could actually keep the old structure and build around it, old + new. Meanwhile, renovate the old place to please Ms. McTeer. In short, stimulate.

    • Seriously, though, we do live in a time of good architecture…

      When did that happen?

      If there is something irretrievably deficient about the function of 24 Sussex, I wouldn’t resist some subtle change to its form (as long as it’s executed properly) but the very idea of building a new one, in situ or somewhere else just makes me blanch.

      • You are a true conservative, Ti-Guy.

        Re: architecture, you have to admit it’s better than it was, oh, 10 years ago (postmodernism), not to mention 25 years ago (square glass towers) or 35 years ago (brutalism). I mean, it’s not exactly beautiful like Neo-Gothic or, oh, Michelangelo, but it’s pretty good interesting given how cheap we are. Some things, like the Chin Crystal, fail, but others like the new AGO are at least tending back to formal structure. Or the OCAD building, at which I gaze for about 12 hours a day and which never gets old.

        • You are a true conservative, Ti-Guy.

          When it comes to urban planning, you bet. And I was never like that until I lived in the 3rd world and discovered that lack of resources was preserving communities and providing for more liveable, enjoyable spaces far better than the application of sophisticated, technocratic thinking was trying to do by design.

          Re: architecture, you have to admit it’s better than it was, oh, 10 years ago (postmodernism), not to mention 25 years ago (square glass towers) or 35 years ago (brutalism)

          Large, cosmopolitan cities (with money to burn) can take risks with architecture, and I’m all for a certain degree of risk-taking. But it has to be limited to areas where liveability isn’t much an issue…such as in the financial district in Toronto.. Otherwise, a lot more consideration has to be made with regard to communities of people already in place or you end up with spaces “too ugly to care about” as Jame Kunstler laments.

          • Hey, I’m a true conservative too, esp. re: urban planning. Couldn’t agree more that poverty (up to a certain point) is a good thing architecturally, because it encourages functionality and discourages decoration (whether rococo frescoes or funky glass). Look at the exterior staircases of Montreal: they’re basically a cost-saving measure, and the result is street after street of beauty, all of it as functional as they day those staircases left the foundry.

            I secretly hope that the imminent end of the car — at least, the end of the car as a necessity — will somehow magically transform all our Bedroom Communities into little villages, each highly differentiated and thus interesting. Too bad we won’t live to see it, but it’s going to be a lot better for the soul when suburban cities cease to be suburban.

          • Agreed. Has anybody seen Vancouver before the mongol developers got at it ? Or Dublin.

        • Too bad we won’t live to see it, but it’s going to be a lot better for the soul when suburban cities cease to be suburban.

          We will however be around to witness the deterioration of these spaces into post-apocalyptic hellscapes, which has certain dystopic appeal to it.

          Just kidding. I live just West of Scarborough and it doesn’t even offer that promise. It’s just dull.

          • I really do recommend Worcester, Mass., if dystopic post-apocalyptic hellscapes float your boat. You would be their first tourist since the 19th century, but the place is absolutely full of excellent buying opportunities.

          • Try Comx V I . So many retired folks are flocking to the place is starting to resemble the nearby military barracks. All they need to complete the picture is to issue every one with a jeep or humvee.

  4. Or we could construct a new, at an alternate location. So, while the PM is occupying one, the other can be upgraded and fixed. The PM’s can the alternate houses as necessary. Having only seen 24 from the other side of the fence, it is hard to argue the value of its historic legacy on the inside.

    • Couldn’t hurt to have more than on 24 Sussex Drive these days. Though I guess the other one would have to be called 25 Sussex. Handy monikers for the minority parliament era.

  5. It’s not really a heritage building. It has only housed PMs for about 50-60 years or so. We’re not talking about a crucial piece of our history. The address is far more significant than the actual building itself.

    • Age isn’t the only criteria for being a heritage building. Historical importance also qualifies, and 24 Sussex has that in spades. The residence needs to be rehabilitated and modernized. Just get on with it.

      – JV

    • Yes, this is what I want to know. Is the building historic because it has some intrinsic historical details? Was it built to last, or just banged together as fast as possible? It seems to me that the Prime Minister’s residence will be historic the moment a Prime Minister lives there. But not having seen the place in anything more than a drive-by or a picture, is the building itself as good as, say, Bellevue House or Woodside?

      I absolutely hate tearing down historic buildings. I would hate to have the PM housed somewhere other than 24 Sussex Drive. But if the building can’t be saved or if the building isn’t worth saving, then starting over would seem the only alternative.

      I love the idea of having Mike Holmes in to help make the determination! What a great show!

      • Was it built to last, or just banged together as fast as possible?

        A lot of historical buildings in Canada were banged together without much thought to their longevity. That’s how colonies operate. If they develop, subsequently, into a piece of our history, they are worth preserving and can be remade to last.

        They can do anything with renovation these days.

  6. You’re missing the big picture, Paul. The Cons have earmarked a billion dollars in the budget so Canadians can renovate their homes and the Harper family will undoubtedly be the first in line.

    Aside from that, I’d say go for it as long as they turn it into a moneymaking tourist attraction in the process. I for one would pay to tour the new 24 Sussexhouse if it included something like a hall of animatronic Prime Ministers, a museum of government scandals or a display of the greatest hockey books never written. Not only would that be practical for the taxpayer but it would also give the Harper kids a chance to earn their keep by working in one of the concession stands.

  7. Was M. Mcteer in the place long enough to have an opinion?

  8. It’s not quite a Kunstler “Eyesore of the Month.” Some things are worth saving in spite of the cost. How about a compromise? Hold a competition for proposals to integrate a new and efficient wing with the original. There really are some talented designers out there. A caveat — take it out of the hands of the in situbureaucracy. Public servants are hard-working and dedicated, but their masters, past and present, have drummed all creativity out of them.

  9. 24 Sussex is awesome – I stand against any plan that would deprive future generations of canadians the opportunity to gaze upon the hideousness of the upstairs green bathroom.

    Plus i left a dead badger in the basement office and one of these days it’s going to start to smell, and then who’ll be the boss of who, stephen harper?

    • Did it again Feschuk — I know you meant to wite “dead bugger in the basement office.”

    • Was it painted green ? Or did it grow to be green naturally ? Or did you mean green in the ” Ms. May would love it ” sense ? Puzzlers.

      • Not just painted green. Everything is green. EVERYTHING. The sinks, the tiles… it’s as though a gigantic tube of colgate winterfresh exploded and nobody bothered to clean up the mess.

  10. Maybe they should close down Stornaway and move the Ignatieffs into the basement at # 24? I can see it now: Steve would be forever moaning about Michael intoning his soliloquies at 4am, and the Ignatieffs would be forever yelling: ” can’t you keep yr goddamn progeny quiet for 5 minutes?” Maybe they could pick out the new colour scheme together; Steve and Mike could head over to the local H. hardware to pick up the paint.

    • A fantastic Reality TV idea. The awkwardness would be epic. They’d have to invent new ratings systems to cope with the fanatical viewership. Democracy would take a step forward, and we could use the ad money to renovate. In fact the renovation would be part of the premise. Win – win – WIN!!

      • The possibilities are mind boggling. Michael could bring his own butler or footmen – maybe Dion, he’s not doing much these days. Steve might even like the idea, as long as he got to call hin Stephanie.

      • Can Justin Trudeau be a part of this wacky adventure? Also, Preston Manning.

        • why not ? Preston might make a better butler, Dion could have a little too much attitude. Justin would be the footman although Baird might be jealous, let’s make him bouncer.

          • that was a tad pc of me. We’ll let John be the kid’s nanny. That should instill the fear of the lord into them!

  11. 24 Sussex, renovation…yes. Demolition….hell no!

    I watched in horror as a beautiful Heritage Home in my city was demolished this past weekend. I wonder what is wrong with our governments not wanting to preserve more of these glorious pieces of our past. So rich with history and beauty. There are so few left.

    Ironically my MP is the minister of Heritage.

  12. I do like the promotional Mike Holmes idea. Remember what Jacquie Kennedy did for the White House. Canadians don’t have the same reverence for the official rez, and some TV promo can remedy that.

    But it might be more fun to have a Trading Spaces, with the Ignatieff’s doing 24 Sussex (the way they want it when they move in(, and the Harpers doing Stornoway (the way Prentice or McKay will want it when harper is finally booted).

    They can work with (scary) Mike Holmes and (obsessed with his 70s hair) Jim Caruk. Personally I think the homes Holmes ends up fixing are Caruk’s projects. Heh heh.

    • That’s hilarious, because I’ve often thought the same thing! I can’t believe they worked on that other show so well (at least well while the cameras were on)

  13. I’m sympathetic, to a degree, to the heritage angle. But today’s heritage was built on yesterday’s heritage. Unless the government – and that’s you and me, really – wants to fund/support meaningfully that preservation, then the owner gets to make that decision.

    I’m far from a landowner militant type, and believe government has a say in landuses that affects other neighbours, poisons the land, etc.. However, I’m also a little fatigued by intervention by fiat that is freely promoted when the individuals lamenting tree cutting, house demoliton, new homes, etc… can’t be arsed to pull out their own pocket books and buy the land in question for everyone else’s good. They feel free to benefit from some one else’s taxes subsidizing the nice house/nice trees/nice ski trail, etc.. but aren’t prepared to compensate for the owner’s taxes.

  14. There is no house a reality show cannot save. Let Celine Dion and Mike Myers move in with the Harpers for a year or something. It pays for itself.

  15. Canadians should stop being so goddamn cheap.

    Fix the PM’s house. He must be embarrassed to host foreign leaders there.

    Isn’t this the spend on everything, stimulus budget? Use some of the money to fix 24 Sussex, then.

  16. Yes, renovate 24 Sussex and perhaps add a discreet architect designed addtion. Love the addition to the AGO so perhaps we could splurge and get Ghery to design it.

    As for Toronto, it has lost a lot of what made it appealing and the waterfront OY! What waterfront? It’s all condos.and very depressing and inaccessible.

    I live in the heritage district of a smaller city now and there’s always a fight going on to preserve what we have.

  17. Good to see that most people seem to think whatever’s done, SOMETHING ought to be done. I too would rather not demolish and start over, but whatever we do, I hope we spend the money and do it right.

    It’s probably not just 24 either. Anyone know what kind of shape Stornaway is in? What about The Farm (the Speakers’ official residence)?

    Personally, I think we’re ENTIRELY to cheap when it comes to this sort of thing.

  18. I think its a terrific project. Tear the ugly beast down and get something terrific.

  19. Wont happen until there is a PM who knows he wnt be running again from a majority position. Then you would be able to rennovate properly without fear that it was for being done for your personal enjoyment.

    The 24 Sussex debate is typically canadian, nasty, snippy and devoid of content.

    PM’s shouldnt be out finding temp housing, the security retrofits, year after year alone would more than pay for rennovations.

    It neednt be a palace, but it should be a proper Head of government home, capable of housing a family AND being a place decent enough to bring ambassadors or others heads of government and functional enough to host working meetings.

    I cannot see why the current house could be fixed to do that. If that ultimately meant a tear down then fine, but it should only need additions. And what an example it could be if it were made super energy effecient.

    Its current state of repair is a real shame.

  20. Hydro $69,000 last year? Anybody check the basement for grow lights?