Monthly Archives: October 2015

24 Sussex – The Reno – Follow up

Maureen McTeer, wife of PM Joe Clark (1979-1980) was on the wireless today, talking about 24 Sussex Drive, the Prime Minister’s Residence, now that PM-Designate Justin Trudeau has decided to hang his toothbrush at Rideau Cottage instead of 24 Sussex. Maureen is also the author of Residences: Homes of Canada’s Leaders, 1982.  McTeer knows the place better than we ever will.

The short form of her comments; burn the friggin joint to the ground and start over. There’s asbestos throughout and most of the systems are beyond redemption.  It was gutted after the Feds took it over in 1946 and left to rot until Louis St. Laurent moved in, in 1951, so it doesn’t have any historical architectural significance according to McTeer.  The site is impressive, but the house isn’t.  One would think that the house should reflect how we view our Prime Minister and our country, especially when other Heads of State visit; the face we show to the world, so to speak.  It’s a heritage designated building, so a burn-down is going to be very, very difficult.

One point that stood out, although there is an element of heritage to the site, the RCMP has to be able to protect the occupant and their family in a secure accommodation that is also a place where they can actually live.

Several callers have also paralleled our original idea: Get our home-grown reno and decorating experts to fix the joint and generate six or seven hours of good television out of it.  McTeer also noted that having some real transparency and openness regarding our PM’s residence would be great.  It would also scare the crap out of the NCC that works like a bureaucratic Star Chamber most of the time and terrifying bureaucrats is always a good thing.

An HVAC contractor caller also mentioned that he had a job where a couple with an 1890’s vintage home that they wanted to modernize. It saved them 15 to 20% by tearing down the original and replacing it with a duplicate, but with modern methods, engineering and systems.  Also a very good idea.

On another side, we’ve sent a link to the blog posting to the production companies involved in the shows noted in the post and HGTV. It would seem others have too.  This is just wacky enough to actually work.

24 Sussex – The Reno

A half joking meme that was started online has us thinking. For those who don’t know, 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa, is the Prime Minister’s Residence.  10 Downing Street, or the White House are very much the seat of power, being the residence of the head of government and set up very much as the seat of government.  24 Sussex is a residence, that once in a blue moon might host some foreign dignitary.  Usually Rideau Hall, the home of the Governor-General, conveniently across the street, is used for official receptions, like when Queen Betty the Deuce comes to town, or the Lord High Bisboth of Absurdistan makes an official visit.  Rideau Hall is set up for that kind of party, 24 Sussex is not really built for it.

The real work of the PM is done downtown in the Langevin Block, right across the street from Parliament, and is called the PMO: 24 Sussex is where the Prime Minister hangs his or her housecoat and where the offspring run rampant.  With the impending installation of our new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who played in the trees and rooms of 24 Sussex as a kid when his Dad, Pierre Trudeau, ran the country, there is discussion about the state of 24 Sussex.

The joint sits on 4 acres (1.6 hectares) of the most beautiful land in Ottawa, overlooking the Ottawa River. Next door is the French Embassy and across the street is Rideau Hall.  A condo developer would sell his extended family into slavery in North Korea to get his (or her) mitts on this parcel of land.  The view is incredible, but the house is a shit hole.

Originally opened in 1868, it was built for lumber baron and Member of Parliament J. M. Currier. In 1943 the Feds expropriated 24 Sussex, divesting the owner at the time, Gordon Evans, also a lumber baron and MP, of his ownership.  The Feds wanted to own as much land as possible around Rideau Hall and along the shoreline of the Ottawa River as they could.  Evans was eventually awarded $140,000, but got even by dying in the place in 1946.  24 Sussex sat dormant for a few years and since 1951, every Prime Minister since Louis St, Laurent (except Kim Campbell) has lived at 24 Sussex Drive during their mandate.  Justin Trudeau has just announced he won’t be moving into 24 Sussex when he is sworn in next week.  He’s going to put his toothbrush into Rideau Cottage on the grounds of Rideau Hall.

How much of a shit hole is 24 Sussex? The last time we were allowed to ask, there is no central air conditioning, the heat works often, the roof looks like it saw its’ best day 1995 and probably leaks, the rooms are chopped up and are decorated with all the skill of bureaucrats at the National Capitol Commission on acid.  There is probably asbestos in the walls.  The wiring may date from 1920, so when the PM turns on the bathroom lights, the doorbell rings and the RCMP radios stop working.  Want WiFi?  Take your Prime Ministerial Blackberry over to the French Embassy next door and see if you can get some bars.  There are security cameras galore and probably a safe room since Jean Chretien’s wife found an intruder in 24 Sussex at some ungodly hour in 1995.  Aline Chretien talked the guy down, while the PM, Jean Chretien, armed himself with a Innuit sculpture to brain the intruder, Andre Dallaire.

The Auditor General determined, in 2008 (that’s seven years ago, or in Government Time, before the Birth of Christ) that 24 Sussex needs about $10 million worth of work.

To which we reply thusly. Hell yeah!  No, seriously, Hell YEAH!  Take our share of the tax dollars and give our PM a residence that is appropriate to the office.

But we want to do it differently. The CBC and Home and Garden Television (HGTV) Canada have stables of very well-known renovation, restoration and decoration personalities that do very good work.  Do a deal with the CBC and HGTV and tape the whole thing.  First off, Mike Holmes (Holmes Inspection) could do a reality check on the joint, then his crew would gut it out to the door knobs.  Steve Grimes up on the roof, ripping off shingles, Sherry Holmes punching a sledge hammer through some plaster and lath in the master ensuite, while Mike Jr. and Carl Pavlovic try to fit a steel beam into the basement to keep the floors up.  Then Brian Baumler comes in to de-screw the room layouts while Frank Cozzolino re-wires the place.  Outside, Paul Lafrance and his crew of saw jockeys rebuild the decks and common spaces.  As the walls go up, Steven Sabados (of Steven and Chris on CBC) goes back into harness with a few historical mooks from the NCC to furnish and decorate the public and private spaces with taste and the right mix of modern with historically appropriate.

Now, how long could this go on? The Auditor General guesstimates that it would take a year.  Sounds about right, but with the delays that television production causes, call it a year and a half.  That could easily be six hour-long shows, with a near-100% Canadian content in products, services and personalities.  You could even wedge in some historical background and teaching moments.  Would it be a good reno?  Considering the A-G figures it would cost $10 million to do it on the government dime, which is about twice what it would cost if it was private money, we’d get value for the money.  The worst that could happen is the NCC will talk to “This Old House” and convince Kevin and The Boys to come up to Canada for a year.  Which would be horrible from a national pride point of view, but fascinating to see Tom Silva fighting with a real poutine over at Ti-Gus’ in Gatineau.

Is this just messed up enough to work? You know, it might be.

Catching Up

It has been a while, hasn’t it?  Yes, yes, I know, but sometimes life intrudes.  Let’s play catch-up.

Harper Shit-Canned:  Our Federal election, which our former PM, The Right Honourable Stephen (Call me the Right Honourable Stephen Harper) Harper managed to devolve into a fear-mongering contest of mean-spirited backroom media manipulation and party faithful bludgeoning, was fired by the electorate on Monday.  The Liberals, under Justin Trudeau swept the table with a majority of Canadians in a record turn-out, repudiating the mean-spirited, micro-managing and message massaging of the Harper and his back-room goons.

Fortunately Harper bought a piece of land  in Alberta and will soon retire there to slowly drown in his bitter tears of defeat.  Harper was responsible for the gutting of the Progressive Conservative Party and the very conscious rooting out of Progressive Conservatives anywhere in the ranks.  You might be allowed to stick around if you immediately erected a shrine to Preston Manning on your desk and said very unpleasant things about immigrants, minorities and how poorly treated the top 1% of the population have been oppressed.

Another Trudeau:  Justin’s got some big promises to live up to.  Yes, he’s young, inclusive and has some new ideas, but he is also inheriting an economy that has been gutted, sun-dried and parceled off to Harper’s biggest contributors.  Change will come in the bureaucracy, but only if Trudeau summarily dismisses the top 10% of deputy ministers and senior bureaucrats who only know how to bow towards the Langevin Block as the source of all wisdom and words that can be used.

A word to Justin?  Your ministers will want to change things and quickly, but ADM’s and DM’s are the stumbling block.  They’ll tie any real change up in knots for the next four years by studying the hair off it.  Clean drinking water for First Nations reserves?  There is no need to study it for more than a week.  But your ministerial bureaucrats will examine the H2 and O under a microscope for years if you let them.  Don’t let them.  Give them simple orders and a deadline and a reminder that at a certain level, Deputy Ministers are employed at the discretion of the Crown, which can be revoked on the recommendation of the Minister.  That takes about one phone call, so get those bureaucrats in line now, or you won’t be able to do jack.  They respond well to threats and do truly deserve a good boxing about the ears for their behavior.

Obama:  He’s a lame-duck now and frankly the US has devolved into a freak show of racists, gun-nuts and the economically marginalized.  The whipped topping is fake, the cake is stale and the filling has more chemicals than a Sarnia Saturday Night.  Entire states have disintegrated into pockets of third-word poverty but with a social media presence to make it look respectable.  California is out of water, but the Kardashians can still keep their lawns beautiful.

The US has become a nation of peep-hole masturbators who can never be rich or successful, but sure do want to watch it happen to others.  A telling survey is that of children in early elementary school grades, when asked what they want to be when the grow up answer “A Celebrity”.  Not a fireman, or a doctor, or a teacher, but the most useless percentage of society possible who should be loaded onto the B-Ark and sent to a distant planet.

Why, because the entire media setup in the US is designed to glorify the stupid but pretty and to make sure you’re scared shitless, twice a night, with the 6 pm news and the 11 pm news.  Donald Trump as a serious candidate for the Republican Party leadership is the QED.  The other supporting documentation is that the vast majority of US readers will have no clue what QED means, why we used it in this context, or even where to possibly find information to lead them to the answer.  The few that will find it, will then post that we’re being elitist and liberal, two of the dirtiest words in the American lexicon of sane and reasoned discourse.  By the way, will the last person to leave Detroit please turn off the lights after you tag the walls of City Hall with your gang affiliation or some other pithy comment.

We keep on keepin’ on.