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Politics Majority of Canadians support replacing 24 Sussex: Nanos poll

The residence of Canada’s prime minister, 24 Sussex Dr., is seen on the banks of the Ottawa River on Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. The Parliament Hill Peace Tower is in the distance.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

He grew up at 24 Sussex Dr., but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau might want to consider tearing down his childhood home.

More than half of Canadians think the federal government should replace the prime minister's residence with a new building if it's cheaper than the estimated $38-million renovation, according to a new poll from Nanos Research Group.

Nationally, 54 per cent of Canadians think the residence should be replaced, while 34 per cent want it renovated. Another 12 per cent are unsure, according to the poll, which surveyed 1,000 Canadians between Dec. 16 and Dec. 19. The national figures have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

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"What the survey shows is that there is a heavy dose of taxpayer pragmatism when it comes to the prime minister's residence," Nanos Research founder Nik Nanos said in an interview.

"It's pretty clear that only about one out of every three Canadians would support renovating 24 Sussex at a cost of $38-million."

A report from iPolitics last month said restoration and repairs to the prime minister's residence, including building a new annex with private quarters and a pool, could cost almost $38-million, according to documents obtained by the online news site.

Aaron Wudrick, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said security considerations at the prime minister's residence would undoubtedly make it more expensive than the average home. But he said many Canadians question why it would cost up to 10 times as much as other large estates.

"I don't think anyone denies the prime minister needs a secure, pleasant residence," Mr. Wudrick said.

"I would suggest that they definitely look at the cheapest viable option, even if one of those options is tearing down the house entirely, or building a new residence in a different location."

Support for replacing the property varies between different regions in Canada.

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Quebec and Atlantic Canada feel less nostalgia for the residence, with 59.7 per cent of Quebeckers and 58.9 per cent of Atlantic Canadians wanting to see it torn down and replaced, the survey said.

In Ontario, only 48.6 per cent of people want it torn down, while in British Columbia the number is 49.5 per cent. In the Prairies, it's 54 per cent, the same as the national average.

After his election last year, Mr. Trudeau declined to move into the decrepit mansion and, instead, set up at Rideau Cottage on the grounds of the Governor-General's residence.

In 2008, the auditor-general found the building to be in poor shape – with cracked windows, aging wiring and deficient plumbing.

The 24 Sussex building, which was completed in 1868, was expropriated by the federal government in 1943. Seven years later, it was decided to use it as a home for the prime minister and Louis St. Laurent was the first to live there, starting in 1951.

"In one way, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a victim of the inaction of previous prime ministers, who probably should have done some sort of renovation," Mr. Nanos said.

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The National Capital Commission, which is working on plans for the future of the 24 Sussex building, has said no decisions have been made.

A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister's Office said the residence requires "significant repairs."

"No decisions have been made regarding any proposals for renovations at 24 Sussex Drive. The government will provide an update in due course," spokeswoman Andrée-Lyne Hallé wrote in an e-mail.

Mr. Trudeau spent a majority of his childhood at the residence when his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was prime minister during the 1970s and early 1980s.

With a report from The Canadian Press

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