Because of a series of renovations, Governor-General Julie Payette has yet to live at Rideau Hall and does not have immediate plans to move into her official residence, staying instead in a 8,500-square-foot house that is traditionally used by visiting foreign dignitaries.
The renovations that delayed her initial move to Rideau Hall last year are largely finished. However, her office said she wants to allow the government to complete a new round of renovations that would make the location more accessible to people with mobility issues.
According to the National Capital Commission, Rideau Hall has been the residence and workplace of "every governor-general of Canada since 1867.” However, when Ms. Payette was appointed to the viceregal post last year, she was asked to live at Rideau Gate, a nearby house that is regularly used by Global Affairs Canada as part of its diplomatic activities.
In recent months, the NCC changed the heating system, renovated a washroom, replaced lighting systems and upgraded furnishings and furniture layouts at Rideau Hall. There is continuing work at the official residence on the building’s foundations and three washrooms in the administrative building, according to the NCC.
Ms. Payette’s office said her move into the official residence has been further delayed to accommodate coming renovations, which are still largely in the design stage.
“Convinced of the value of making Rideau Hall fully accessible to all Canadians, the Governor-General intends to facilitate the implementation of universal accessibility measures as a legacy project, including any maintenance and rehabilitation work required for the conservation of the historic character of Rideau Hall,” spokeswoman Marie-Eve Létourneau said.
She added the date for Ms. Payette’s move to Rideau Hall is unknown, as the NCC is still developing its accessibility strategy.
“Various parties need to be consulted to determine the timeline for the completion of this strategy,” she said. “This arrangement has no impact on the Governor-General’s functions or program and Rideau Hall remains an important location where state events occur regularly and where we have ensured that the public continues to be welcomed every day.”
Justin Trudeau and his family are also not staying at the Prime Minister’s official residence at 24 Sussex Drive, which is need of major repairs after years of neglect.
According to NCC spokeswoman Jacqueline Théoret, the coming work at Rideau Hall will include the installation of adapted elevators. In addition, she said the NCC is planning to repair the plaster in the Rideau Hall ballroom, upgrade fire suppression systems, renovate the veranda and change windows.
“We are prioritizing a comprehensive universal accessibility strategy to improve accessibility at Rideau Hall by building on previous studies and initiatives, including recent accessibility improvements to a state bathroom and the main elevator,” she said.
The work on the accessibility strategy is expected to be “undertaken in the coming year,” Ms. Théoret said.
Rideau Hall is a complex of of 20 buildings, including the main one that contains 175 rooms in 95,000 square feet. It includes both an administrative area and the private quarters that have traditionally been used by governors-general and their families. According to former NCC chief architect François LeBlanc, about 5,000 square feet of the main building are used exclusively by the governor-general.
Rideau Gate is a standalone house with 30 rooms. As the house will remain in use by Ms. Payette for the foreseeable future, the federal government will have to rely on other options to welcome foreign visitors to the national capital region.