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
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
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(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),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); }

The prime minister's official country residence at Harrington Lake, Que., is seen in an Aug. 15, 2012, file photo.

FRED CHARTRAND

A federal agency relocated an abandoned and rundown building at the Prime Minister’s Harrington Lake retreat in Quebec’s Gatineau Hills and rebuilt it into a $2.5-million lakeside mansion for friends of prime ministers or visiting dignitaries.

The “Caretaker’s House” originally built in 1850, has been renamed the “Farmhouse,” and is currently being used by the Trudeau family while $6.1-million in restoration work is being done to the main cottage, a country home for Canadian prime ministers since the late 1950s.

Restoration of the 16-room main cottage, that sits on secluded Harrington Lake, has been suspended because of the COVID-19 outbreak, according to Jean Wolff, a spokesman for the National Capital Commission (NCC) that manages the government’s official residences in the capital region.

Story continues below advertisement

“The NCC has asked the Prime Minister to use the Farmhouse temporarily, pending completion of renovations at the main cottage. Once these renovations are complete, the Farmhouse will serve as a guest house,” Mr. Wolff said in an e-mail.

There is already another guest cottage on the 5.4-hectare property that is situated across the lake from the Prime Minister’s residence. During the Stephen Harper years, the guest cottage was used by then-governor-general Michaëlle Jean and her family.

Sources say the Caretaker’s House, which was originally located across a main road and lacked a view of Harrington Lake, had deteriorated to the point that the back of the building had collapsed, the trim had been removed and the inside was down to the rafters. The Globe and Mail is not revealing the names of the sources because they are not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Nonetheless, the Caretaker’s House was considered a heritage property and the NCC decided in 2018 to spend millions of dollars to reconstruct it.

“The original building was dismantled, with heritage components integrated into the new structure, and moved to a site closer to the main cottage,” Mr. Wolff said.

He initially insisted that the new Farmhouse, which from satellite imagery appears much larger than the ramshackle Caretaker’s Cottage, was not a new and bigger building.

“There are no new buildings being constructed. NCC completed rehabilitation and relocation of the old Caretaker’s House,” Mr. Wolff said: “No, it is not bigger. I do reiterate that it is inappropriate, for me, to comment on images that are not our own or that cannot be validated by the NCC.”

Story continues below advertisement

However, Mr. Wolff later confirmed that the Farmhouse had indeed been significantly expanded to meet what he called new “building-code standards.”

The floor area of the original Caretaker’s House was 260 square metres. The new building has significantly more floor space.

“It will now be able to accommodate the various needs of visitors, guests and staff at official functions carried out by the head of the government of Canada,” he said. “To achieve these goals – especially as [they] relate to universal accessibility – the design of the reconstructed house required a floor surface of 450 square metres that still features many of the heritage character elements from the original 1850 cottage.”

Mr. Wolff said the overall bill for rehabilitation of the Harrington Lake residence and all its buildings has been estimated to cost $17.8-million of capital investment. So far, $8.6-million has been committed to the effort.

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre accused officials of obscuring the facts.

“It sounds like they have effectively built the Prime Minister a new waterfront mansion while his old mansion is renovated. And they are trying to cover it up with complicated stories about how they have just moved the caretaker’s derelict cottage up the road,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement

“What they should have just said is the Prime Minister needs a lakeside mansion while his existing one is renovated and we’re going to spend $2.5-million to build one.”

NDP MP Charlie Angus criticized the NCC for trying to hide the fact that it had built an entirely new building as a guest house.

“I don’t have a problem with the Prime Minister staying in good, proper digs,” he said. "Why not be upfront and tell us because when you are spending $6-million to fix a cottage and over $2-million to move a guest house and double its size, Canadians have a right to know.”

The country retreat has been a refuge for prime ministers and their families for decades. Former prime minister Brian Mulroney wrote in his memoirs that Harrington Lake was a “place that has brought us much sanctuary in the storms and joy and freedom as a family. Here the kids were happy, Mila was relaxed, and I accordingly, for a while, was able to shuck some of the responsibilities and genuinely enjoy myself with family and friends.”

Mr. Harper once said that he would love to retire at Harrington Lake.

In his memoirs, Common Ground, Mr. Trudeau, who has probably spent more time at the cottage than anyone else, remarked on how special Harrington Lake was to him and his two brothers when his father was prime minister from 1968-1984, except for nine months during Joe Clark’s short-term government.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Trudeau’s primary residence is Rideau Cottage on the grounds of Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Governor-General. 24 Sussex Drive, which is the official residence of the prime minister, stands empty as there appears to be a lack of political will to either tear down and rebuild or to restore the residence.

The conditions at 24 Sussex are so bad that Mr. Trudeau has not lived there since taking office in 2015. The NCC estimates that the total cost of deferred maintenance at 24 Sussex amounts to $34.5-million, while its replacement value is pegged at almost $38.5-million.

Prime Minister's Gatineau retreat

undergoing renovation

Harrington

QUE.

Lake

Montreal

Ottawa

ONT.

NEW

YORK

VERMONT

0

150

KM

May, 2015

Caretaker’s

House

Harrington

Lake

May, 2019

Harrington

Lake

Newly

renovated

Farmhouse

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS; HIU; ESRI

Prime Minister's Gatineau retreat

undergoing renovation

Harrington

QUE.

Lake

Montreal

Ottawa

ONT.

NEW

YORK

VERMONT

0

150

KM

May, 2015

Caretaker’s

House

Harrington

Lake

May, 2019

Harrington

Lake

Newly

renovated

Farmhouse

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS; HIU; ESRI

Prime Minister's Gatineau retreat undergoing renovation

0

150

KM

Harrington

Quebec

QUE.

Lake

Montreal

MAINE

Ottawa

ONT.

VERMONT

NEW

YORK

Toronto

NEW

HAMPSHIRE

May, 2015

May, 2019

Caretaker’s

House

Harrington

Lake

Harrington

Lake

Newly

renovated

Farmhouse

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS; HIU; ESRI

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

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 feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

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 letters@globeandmail.com. 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 letters@globeandmail.com. 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

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

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