Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Forty years after his father decided to build it, Justin Trudeau must decide the fate of the pool house on the grounds of the PM’s official residence.

Add "What to do with dad's pool" to the pile of tough decisions facing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau early in the new year.

Forty years after his father, an inveterate swimmer, weathered negative headlines over the decision to build a cedar-wrapped pool house on the grounds of the prime minister's official residence, the facility is in need of major repairs.

A report on the pool house prepared for the National Capital Commission recommended the complete replacement of the building's envelope because of "degradation," according to government documents. The NCC confirmed Tuesday that the pool building needs new windows, doors and cladding, as well as a long list of internal upgrades including electrical, plumbing, lighting and filtration repairs.

Story continues below advertisement

The pool house was built using mostly private donations in 1975 at a cost about $200,000, which is more than $844,000 in today's dollars. The NCC said no cost estimate is currently available for upgrading the pool.

The state of the pool house adds another expensive element to the overall decision of what to do with 24 Sussex Dr. The former home of an area logging baron has served as the official residence of Canadian prime ministers since 1950, but it needs extensive repairs.

The NCC – which is responsible for the property – has long recommended that the residence be vacated for an extended period to allow for the renovations. Justin Trudeau and his family opted not to move in to 24 Sussex following the October election. They are living at a residence called Rideau Cottage on the grounds of Rideau Hall, which is across the street from the official residence.

However, the Prime Minister's Office said this week that no decisions have been made regarding the official residence. The NCC has not said when it will announce its recommendations for the property.

The state of 24 Sussex – which requires at least $10-million in repairs to upgrade the ventilation systems and do other non-cosmetic work – has prompted a public debate over whether the building should be renovated or torn down and replaced with something new. Home-reno reality TV hosts Bryan Baeumler and Mike Holmes have both hinted they'd be willing to play a role.

A key distinction between the pool house and the official residence is that the residence is a recognized federal heritage building, while the pool is not. At the request of the NCC, the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office produced a detailed review of the pool house in 2014 and determined that it fell short of the requirements for heritage designation.

Nonetheless, the NCC told The Globe and Mail Tuesday that the pool is included in its plans for the property.

Story continues below advertisement

"While the Pool House at 24 Sussex has not been designated [as a federal heritage building], the building is over 40 years old and retains distinct modern design characteristics that will be considered in the overall preparations on the future of 24 Sussex Drive," NCC spokesperson Nicholas Galletti said in an e-mail.

The heritage buildings report, released under the Access to Information Act, speaks glowingly of the pool house, calling it "simple, subtle, and attractive … in the tradition of private pleasure pavilions designed for escape from the world of work." The pool house was designed by government architect Stig Harvor, who immigrated to Canada from Finland in 1945.

"The architect confirmed that his research for the building design involved looking at the Finnish sauna tradition of which he had first hand knowledge," states the report, which was based in part on a 2013 interview with Mr. Harvor, who is now 86 and lives in Toronto.

Financing of the pool's original construction has long been a source of mystery. While some public money was spent, most of the cost was covered by about 100 private donors, most of whom remain anonymous to this day.

The Heritage Buildings Review Office report notes that Pierre Trudeau swam daily and had been using the pool at the Chateau Laurier hotel before the private pool was built. Justin Trudeau also likes to stay fit, but prefers running and boxing.

Canadian Taxpayers Federation federal director Aaron Wudrick said that his organization supports spending money to maintain public buildings, but that Canadians need to see a detailed cost breakdown of various options before passing judgment on specific renovations.

Story continues below advertisement

"It's a bit of a quandary," Mr. Wudrick said of what to do with the pool house. "The prime minister does not necessarily need a pool. … If it would be cheaper to bulldoze the thing and put a garden there, then maybe we do that instead. But it really comes down to the dollar cost to the taxpayer."

Mr. Harvor, the architect of the pool house who also designed the Brooke Claxton Building in Ottawa that did receive heritage status, dismissed that argument.

"Some people know the cost of everything and the value of nothing," he said. "It's very important I think for any nation to have a sense of its own history and how we came to be what we are today. And when we replace these old memories of the past, we really lose something in our own lives today."

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies