Justin Trudeau's decision to add two nannies to the public payroll is shining a light on the staff who work behind the scenes to keep the Prime Minister's official residence running.
A review of government appointments since the early 1990s shows that the type of work household staff undertakes has fluctuated only slightly over the years. There are generally six staff working at 24 Sussex: an executive chef, an assistant chef, an executive coordinator, a household manager and two household staff.
The Liberals are on the defensive over the decision to add two nannies into that mix. Mr. Trudeau's spokesperson said this week that the two women can be added to the public payroll without increasing the overall number of staff and said they will perform other duties in addition to caring for Mr. Trudeau's three children.
In the end, there will still be six positions, but they will be used differently. Keeping the total number of staff at that number could put the squeeze on some veterans of the official residence.
Two employees at the official residence who are listed as household staff – Lucja Grabowiec and Mirka Bell – have worked for PMs since 1994 and 1998, respectively. The Prime Minister's Office says decisions have not yet been made regarding the final staffing decisions, meaning it is not clear if they will keep their jobs.
The appointments of Marian Puego and Marilou Trayvilla as special assistants mark the first time staff have held that title at the official residence.
Kate Purchase, a spokeswoman for Mr. Trudeau, has said that Ms. Puego and Ms. Trayvilla will perform other duties in addition to helping to care for the children.
"The Prime Minister will not expand the household staff of the Prime Minister's residence. He will be adapting the staff complement to suit his family's requirements, given he is the proud father of three young children. It is an ongoing process and will be finalized in the coming days," Ms. Purchase said in a statement this week.
The Trudeaus have already replaced executive chef Timothy Wasylko. However, his parting words place the Trudeaus in a bind. Mr. Wasylko told the Ottawa Sun that all staff except him were told they would keep their jobs. It is hard to see how that could happen while maintaining the total number of staff at six.
A review of past appointments going back to 1992 shows there are normally about six staff employed at any given time at 24 Sussex Dr., though the numbers and precise positions have fluctuated. The Trudeaus are not living at 24 Sussex. While they await plans from the National Capital Commission regarding renovations to the official residence, the family is living at Rideau Cottage on the grounds of Rideau Hall.
Under then-prime minister Brian Mulroney, all positions were simply classified as household staff. When Jean Chrétien was prime minister, the employees working as chef and assistant chef were clearly identified at the time of their appointments.
Paul Martin had just five staff at 24 Sussex during his time as PM: a household manager, a chef, a senior waiter and two household staff. Like the Chrétiens, the Martins' children were adults and did not live at the official residence.
Cabinet records show there was very little turnover of staff during Stephen Harper's nearly 10 years as prime minister.
Josh Drache, who worked as executive chef to the Martins, and also at the residences of the Official Opposition Leader and the British High Commissioner, said the staffing needs can vary greatly based on the size of a prime minister's family and how much they intend to use the home.
Mr. Drache, who is now executive chef for the Farm Boy grocery store chain, noted that during his time with the Martins, it was determined that the assistant chef position wasn't required.
"I worked for a household of two. It was a very different dynamic," Mr. Drache said. "I've known the chef in each one of those [recent] situations and it's always different. It's based on how they want to use the house."
With research by Michael Pereira and Danielle Webb
Household staff by Prime Minister
Waiter, House mngr
*Privy Council orders of termination for three people employed during Prime Minister Paul Martin's term were not found. Assistant chef Lea MacKenzie was appointed in December, 2003, house manager Hilary Nicolson was appointed in January, 2004, and assistant chef Heather Kennedy was appointed in September, 2004.
Source: Privy Council Office // Graphic by Danielle Webb and Michael Pereira