Work on Justin Trudeau’s official residence has finally begun, after years of neglect saw it fall into a state of dereliction. 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa has remained uninhabited since former prime minister Stephen Harper left office in 2015. However, it was used by staff until 2022 when the building was shut down due to safety concerns. An inspection carried out by the National Capital Commission (NCC) in 2021 found asbestos, mold, lead and so many dead mice trapped behind the walls and in the cellar that the air was reportedly “no longer safe to breathe”. Click or scroll on to find out more…

“Atrocious” neglect

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Although current PM Justin Trudeau is entitled to live in the 34-room residence and grew up in the house when his father Pierre Trudeau was prime minister, he has said that he is “fairly resigned” not to live there due to his reluctance to spend any taxpayer money on its upkeep. However, conservationists disagree and welcome the construction works, which began in May 2023 and are scheduled to last one year. David Flemming, chair of Heritage Ottawa’s advocacy committee, has declared the deterioration of the building as atrocious. “This belongs to the people of Canada,” Flemming told CBC News. “Having a residence for the prime minister is just the cost of doing business as a nation. The truth is we just don’t hold our built heritage in high regard in this country.”

Eye-watering expense

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Built-in 1868, the historic property is now in “critical” condition, according to a 2021 NCC report, and has reportedly been overrun with mice too. The report suggests renovations could amount to an eye-watering CA$36 million ($27.2m/£21.4m). The staggering sum would cover the removal of hazardous materials such as asbestos and mold, as well as the “complete replacement” of the mechanical, heating, and electrical systems, the construction of accessible entrances and washrooms, and possible restoration of heritage features. While the property has been deemed a fire hazard due to its ancient “knob and tube” electrical wiring, it also lacks any fire suppression system. The caretaker’s house and pool building – built for Pierre Trudeau’s requisite daily swim – also need extensive renovations. 

Restoration required

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While former first lady Laureen Harper described the rear porch (pictured) as the best room in the house, due to its views and the sound of the rain on its metal roof, she also said the house was extremely cold and needed extensive structural works even back when she lived in it between 2006 and 2015. Although Trudeau and his family chose to live in nearby Rideau Cottage instead, their meals were prepared at 24 Sussex Drive until November 2022, despite the apparent risks. When questioned where the PM’s meals would be prepared after the residence’s closure, the NCC declined to say, the National Post reported.

Unacceptable risk

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The four-floor mansion has been the PM’s official residence since 1951, yet the once-impressive estate has not seen significant investment in over 60 years. Despite this, the grounds were frequently used to host garden parties, according to National Post. NCC documents obtained by the outlet in April 2023 revealed a recent garden party for 1,500 people was hosted at the house on a day when there were tornado warnings for the area. “If a meteorological event would have occurred, human nature could have led to hundreds of guests rushing into this uninhabitable building, which is a risk we can’t accept,” the report read.

Historic home

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Perched on the banks of the Ottawa River in Ottawa’s historic New Edinburgh neighborhood, 24 Sussex Drive has been home to all Canadian prime ministers but two since 1951. Originally called Gorffwysfa, which is Welsh for ‘place of rest’, the limestone-clad structure sits on a five-acre plot of land and was home to Justin Trudeau for the first eight years of his life and a subsequent four years in the early 1980s.

Famous faces

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Justin and his two younger brothers, Alexandre and Michel, ran amok in the mansion as young boys and were introduced to many of their father’s illustrious guests here, including Diana, Princess of Wales. Justin recalls in his autobiography Common Ground that Diana came over one day looking “a little out of sorts”, and used their swimming pool, which his father had installed for daily workouts.

The Trudeau family’s ‘Freedom Room’

Wikimedia Commons / White House Photo Office [Public Domain]

Trudeau’s mother Margaret is seen here on the left in 1972 alongside President Nixon’s wife Pat, who’s cradling baby Justin. Margaret tried to create a relaxed environment away from the formality of official life. She turned a second-floor guest room into a nursery, painted robin egg blue, with a pine crib, antique rocking chair, and patchwork quilt, and created a family space she called the ‘Freedom Room’, where they could be a normal family.

Distinguished guests

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Justin and his brothers would peek through the banisters to watch the arrival of their parents’ distinguished guests, who included Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Schmidt, Ronald Reagan, and other world leaders. Richard Nixon famously tipped Justin as a future leader when he was just four months old during a state visit to Ottawa in 1972.

The British royal family visit the Trudeaus

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Dinner parties were held around this dining table, where guests included the Aga Khan and Queen Elizabeth ll. Margaret recalls one occasion when the late Queen commented that her husband Prince Philip was having “far too much fun” down his end of the table. A highlight of the dining room is its elaborate original ceiling and ornate chandeliers.

Margaret Trudeau’s Political ‘Prison’

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Despite her attempts to create a more relaxed family life, including time spent here in the cozy reception room downstairs, Margaret struggled with life as the first lady. She called the house “the crown jewel of the federal penitentiary system,” and she eventually separated from Pierre in 1977. Justin and his brothers moved back in with their father in 1980 at 24 Sussex Drive, after their parents’ split and Pierre’s re-election.

Read on to find out more about President Trudeau’s properties, past and present…

READ MORE: From prodigal son to second-generation prime minister

@sophiegregoiretrudeau / Instagram

With his progressive politics and seemingly affable charm, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau is considered one of the world’s more modern leaders. The 51-year-old father of three, who is married to former TV personality Sophie Grégoire, took up residence at the Georgian mansion Rideau Cottage in 2015, but as the son of former PM Pierre Trudeau, he is accustomed to living in some of the finest houses in Canada. We looked back on his property path to power…

The son of Pierre Trudeau

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The eldest son of former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau and his artist wife Margaret, whose father James Sinclair was also a member of Parliament, Justin Trudeau was destined for a role in politics. His father, seen here with the late Queen Elizabeth ll on a state visit in 1978, served as prime minister for almost 16 years and inspired adoration that became known as “Trudeaumania”.

Where was Justin Trudeau born?

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Having dated Barbara Streisand in 1969 and linked to Kim Cattrall and Margot Kidder in the early 80s following his divorce, Pierre Trudeau was unsurprisingly known as a bit of a playboy. However, the then 51-year-old Trudeau did settle down at one point, marrying 22-year-old Margaret in March 1971. They announced the birth of Justin, their first child, just ten months later on Christmas Day. Justin was the first infant born to a sitting prime minister in a century and a cause for national celebration. He posted this photo from the family album on his Instagram.

Harrington Lake holiday home

Courtesy National Capital Commission

While 24 Sussex Drive was Justin’s first home, he traces his happiest childhood memories back to Harrington Lake, the Canadian prime minister’s official summer residence across the Ottawa River in the Gatineau Hills, Quebec. It was here that his father took his sons on hikes through the wilderness and on snowshoeing expeditions. “It was when we paddled or hiked together back then that we felt closest as a family,” Justin has remarked in the past.

Cottagecore vibes

Courtesy National Capital Commission

The exterior features a clapboard façade, a central gable, and rustic wooden shutters, while the cozy interior is typical of the Cottage Revival style of the 1920s, where good craftsmanship and functionality were prized. Stone fireplaces and open verandas add to the home’s informal character, making for a comfortable family retreat. The living room, pictured here in a 2011 snapshot, is now managed by the National Capital Commission.

Trudeau causes controversy

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Trudeau still decamps to the isolated spot with his family over the summer break every year, but he caused controversy when he visited the vacation residence during the Easter break in 2020 in the middle of coronavirus restrictions. The house has been a haven for six prime ministers of Canada since it was gifted to the state in 1959 and has undergone some CA$11.7 million ($8.8m/£7m) of renovations since 2019.

Lakeside views

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The luxurious enclosed sun porch, pictured here in 2011, provides relaxing views across Lac Mousseau, as Harrington Lake is called in Canadian French. Foreign dignitaries are comfortably housed in a choice of two guest cottages on the site. There’s also a boathouse and dock so world leaders can enjoy a relaxing row on the lake in between negotiating global policies.

Trudeau family trouble

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It was an unsettling period for Justin Trudeau and his brothers following their parents’ separation in 1977. Their mother split her time between Canada and New York, taking up an apprenticeship with photographer Richard Avedon in the Big Apple, where she was photographed dancing at Studio 54 and hanging out with Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood. However, Justin remains close to his mother and posted this picture of her alongside him and his brothers on Mother’s Day 2020.

Maison Cormier

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Justin’s parents bought separate homes in 1979, with Margaret moving to the New Edinburgh district of Ottawa. Meanwhile, Pierre bought this austere Art Deco mansion, known as Maison Cormier, in Montreal, when he was briefly out of office after losing an election to Joe Clark’s Progressive Conservatives. 

Pierre Trudeau’s home

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Pierre Trudeau set about renovating the landmark property after he retires from politics in 1984. It was originally designed in 1930 by Canadian architect Ernest Cormier. The living quarters are located below ground and Justin recalls dinners where he and his brothers were expected to read up on the important guests invited. “He expected us to be interested and active participants in very grown-up conversations,” he told The Star.

Pierre Trudeau’s Luxury playground

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Pierre sought out local craftsmen to restore Cormier’s stunning interiors, using expensive and refined materials including marble, terrazzo, and cork floors. Trudeau added an indoor swimming pool, which, according to Justin’s wife Sophie, who was a childhood friend, had a trapeze and ropes. “We could play Tarzan for hours,” she told the Canadian publication Maclean’s.

Death of Justin Trudeau’s father

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One of Canada’s most charismatic prime ministers, Pierre Trudeau died of prostate cancer at his home in 2000. Justin, who had studied literature at university and led a low-key life in his twenties teaching maths and French, returned to the spotlight when he delivered a moving eulogy at his father’s state funeral. Justin’s political career began in 2008 when he won a seat in a Montreal electoral district thought unlikely to back his Liberal Party.

Who did Justin Trudeau marry?

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Although they had their first date in 2003, Sophie Grégoire had already known the Trudeau family for years and was a classmate of Justin’s youngest brother, Michel. Sadly, Michel tragically died in an avalanche in 1998 aged 23. Justin and Sophie married in Montreal in 2005 and have three children, Xavier, 15, Ella-Grace, 14, and Hadrien, nine. “What an adventure it’s been,” Sophie comments on this image she posted on her Instagram.

Rideau Cottage

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Trudeau and his family moved into Rideau Cottage when he took office in 2015, rather than 24 Sussex Drive, the official residence of the prime minister, due to its state of disrepair. Built in 1867, the 22-room Georgian Revival building is owned by the Canadian Crown, meaning it technically belongs to King Charles I. 

A traditional home

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The family had been renting in the Rockcliffe Park area of the city before they took up residence in the historic house, which lies within the grounds of Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Governor General of Canada, the King’s representative in Canada. Measuring 10,000 square feet, the Rideau Cottage has traditionally served as the residence of the secretary to the Governor General.

Important meetings

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The prime minister has shared glimpses inside Rideau Cottage in his regular Instagram posts, including his tasteful kitchen and dining room, seen here during a meeting regarding Climate Action Incentive rebates. The kitchen doesn’t get as much use as you might expect, according to one report, as meals are typically prepared externally and delivered to the family by messenger. Food preparation took place at 24 Sussex Drive until the building was shut down in 2022.

Trudeau works from home

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Like many of us during the pandemic, Trudeau spent a lot more time working from home for his study.  Here, the PM is pictured sitting behind an intricately carved oak desk, surrounded by bookshelves and framed pictures of his family. There’s also a Lego model of a spaceship – Trudeau is a Star Trek fan – and a light ring, which no doubt came in handy for all those Covid-era Zoom meetings.

Rideau Cottage’s vibrant interiors

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As well as being very active in numerous charitable organizations, Trudeau’s wife Sophie is a qualified yoga instructor and is seen here striking a pose with her daughter Ella-Grace in this image posted on her Instagram. It provides insight into the tasteful way the family has furnished their home, with exquisite antiques, bronze sculptures, and a vibrant kilim rug.

Where will Trudeau live post-politics?

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Trudeau celebrated his third election win in September 2021 and is expected to remain at Rideau Cottage at least until the country’s next fixed election in 2025. However, when he finally retires from the top job he won’t be short of somewhere to live. According to The Richest, he is worth CA$13.2 million ($10m/£7.9m) as of 2021 and his family owns several properties around the country, including his late father’s Maison Cormier and a summer house in the Laurentian mountains in Quebec. We wonder which he’ll choose…