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Fate of prime minister’s residence up in the air as staff move out due to hazards


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OTTAWA — The Canadian government has spent billions trying to solve the country’s housing crisis. But when it comes to fixing the prime minister’s own crumbling official residence? That’s a different story.

The picturesque mansion, known by its address of 24 Sussex Drive, spans 34 rooms and is tucked beside the Ottawa River. Built in 1868, it’s been the designated home of the country’s prime ministers since 1950.

It’s split into private and public areas, allowing the prime minister’s family to live in part of the home while official events are held in a separate space.

That’s an ideal setup given a head of government’s hosting duties. But the country’s current prime minister, Justin Trudeau, hasn’t lived there since he was a kid.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper moved out after losing the 2015 federal election to the Liberals, and Trudeau opted not to move into the home where he lived as a boy when his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was prime minister — instead settling in at a residence on the nearby grounds of Rideau Hall.

The issues plaguing 24 Sussex today are the same that kept Trudeau from his homecoming. Only worse.

A 2021 report by the National Capital Commission, the body that manages the country’s official residences, said the registered heritage property has gone without “significant investment” for more than 60 years and that “expensive and urgent repair” was needed.

The price tag: $37 million.

Disrepair has become so severe that the building is now being closed off to all staff. The commission announced this week that “continuously aging and worsening materials and systems” require “more significant actions” to deter fire hazards, water damage and air quality issues. Removal of asbestos and “obsolete” systems will begin next spring.

The idea that 24 Sussex is now too perilous to set foot in has renewed questions over what the federal government’s long-term plans are for the building. Opposition parties want answers.

“When people are struggling to make ends meet, it’s hard to justify spending millions to renovate an official residence,” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said in a written statement Friday.

“But a decision just needs to be made: the neglected renovations, delays and indecisiveness about what to do with the building is what has caused the run-up in expenses.”

Julie Vignola, a critic for the Bloc Québécois, said in a written statement that successive Liberal and Conservative governments failed to spend the money to ensure the residence remained in good shape, which has driven up the cost of renovations to nearly $40 million.

“We cannot afford to pay the price for the federal government’s complete lack of accountability,” she said in French.

Procurement Minister Helena Jaczek, whose portfolio includes the NCC, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

For David Flemming, chair of the advocacy committee at Heritage Ottawa, 24 Sussex is a case of “demolition by neglect” and an issue his group has been calling for action on for years.

He said it’s common to see private owners and developers allow buildings with heritage value to fall into a state of disrepair. “It’s a bit embarrassing to have your national government do something like this.”

Sir Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth II have been among 24 Sussex’s illustrious guests.

Flemming acknowledged the optics of the federal government spending millions to fix up the prime minister’s residence may not be great, but said it’s “the cost of doing business as a country.”

Trudeau alluded to those optics in a 2018 CBC interview. “No prime minister wants to spend a penny of taxpayer dollars on upkeeping that house,” he said at the time.

Before he was elected Conservative leader, Pierre Poilievre criticized Trudeau several years ago for renovating another of the prime minister’s residences at Harrington Lake in western Quebec. At the time, he argued the construction wasn‘t done transparently.

Poilievre did not respond Friday to a request for comment about what he thinks should happen to 24 Sussex. He’s currently living with his family in Stornoway, where the Official Opposition leader typically resides.

That home is slightly smaller, only boasting 19 rooms, but like the prime minister’s residence, it’s designed with space to host official functions.

Meanwhile, the NCC said operating 24 Sussex in its current state has cost about $122,000 annually for the past three years.

Flemming said his group would like to see “something” done with the property. Period.

Over the years there have been no shortage of offers to help.

Back in 2015, some suggested that a reality TV renovation show should be the one to give 24 Sussex its much-needed facelift.

In fact, Ben Mulroney, son of former prime minister Brian Mulroney and a past resident himself, was among those who tossed around the idea.

The state of the mansion has become something of a joke in Canadian culture.

When Paul Martin was prime minister in the early 2000s, he took part in a skit with comedian Rick Mercer where they covered one of the windows with plastic using a hair dryer — a DIY trick to keep out the cold.

“It gets a little drafty here in the wintertime,” Martin quipped.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2022.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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Premier Danielle Smith sent this letter to PM Justin Trudeau today

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An alternative to Just Transition: Premier Smith

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith invites Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to work with her to develop “Sustainable Jobs” legislation as an alternative to the proposed “Just Transition” legislation.

Dear Prime Minister:

I am writing to once again raise Alberta’s serious concerns with the proposed federal ‘Just Transition’ legislation. The world needs more Canadian energy, not less. It would be premature and ill-advised to signal the end of a vibrant, thriving industry that has the ability to reduce Canada’s and the world’s emissions through technological innovation and increased exports of LNG and other clean burning fuels the world so desperately needs. It is also critical to the security of our nation and allies to lessen dependence on fuel sources from unstable, undemocratic and dangerous countries with atrocious environmental records.

Simply put, the world needs more Canadian energy and technology, not less, and as the owner of the world’s third largest oil and gas reserves and the most advanced environmental technology on the planet – we need to signal our intention to provide substantially more of both.

According to your government’s own predictions, the federal Just Transition initiative alone will risk a full 25 percent of Alberta’s economy and 187,000 jobs in Alberta, while also causing major disruptions and displacement to 13.5 percent of Canada’s workforce. At a time when Canadians are struggling to afford basic services and goods, Canada’s oil and gas sector offers some of the highest wages in Canada, which translates to strong business and community support across the country. Signalling a move away from these types of high paying jobs, threatens the national economy, and the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of workers across the country at a time when good jobs are needed the most. It also creates a chilling effect on investors considering large scale investments in the Alberta and Canadian energy sector.

Prime Minister, we are at a crossroads in Alberta’s relationship with the Federal Government. We can continue with the endless court challenges, legislation to protect jurisdictional rights and inflammatory media coverage over our disagreements, or, as is my strong preference, Alberta and Ottawa can work in partnership on a plan that will signal to all Canadians and investors from around the world that our governments have cooperatively designed a series of incentives and initiatives intended to achieve the following objectives:

  1. Substantially decreasing Canada’s and Alberta’s net emissions;
  1. Accelerating private and public investment in projects and infrastructure that utilize and develop Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS), Bitumen Beyond Combustion, Geothermal technology, petrochemicals, hydrogen, lithium, helium, zero-emissions vehicles and nuclear technologies;
  1. Attracting and growing a larger skilled workforce to fill positions in both the conventional energy sector as well as emerging industries using the technologies cited above; and
  1. Significantly, and through the lens of global emissions reduction, increasing the export of LNG and other responsibly developed conventional oil and natural gas resources to Europe, Asia and the United States.

Prime Minister, all of the above objectives need to be clearly articulated and integrated into any Federal legislation or policies your government seeks to implement in the coming months, or that legislation will face irrepressible opposition from Alberta. I genuinely do not want to see that happen.

Further, this proposed legislation must be developed through cooperative discussions with affected provinces – namely Alberta. I would therefore invite you to meet with me in February on this matter, after which I would propose we have our appropriate ministers and officials meet repeatedly in the coming months with the goal of coming to a joint agreement on the key items to be included in your contemplated legislation so that it can be introduced and passed by the end of Spring.

Further, I request that you take to heart, and acknowledge publicly, the following items, in an extension of good faith to Albertans:

  1. Immediately drop the verbiage of “Just Transition”. Accordingly, rename the “Just Transition Act” to the “Sustainable Jobs Act”;
  1. Vow that all provisions of any forthcoming legislation will be designed to incentivize investment and job growth in both the conventional energy sector as well as in emerging industries utilizing Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS), Bitumen Beyond Combustion, petrochemicals, hydrogen, lithium, helium, geothermal, zero-emissions vehicle and nuclear technologies;
  1. Demonstrate that no provision of the Act will be designed to phase out or reduce Alberta’s conventional oil and natural gas sector and workforce (as we are already experiencing a workforce shortage in this sector);
  1. Commit your Government to actively partnering with Alberta to expand LNG exports to Asia and Europe as part of our nation’s overall emissions reduction strategy; and
  1. Promise that you and your Government will work with Alberta in partnership to set reasonable and meaningful emissions reductions targets and will not unilaterally impose such targets on Alberta’s energy, agriculture and other industrial sectors on a go forward basis.

Investments by Alberta’s oil and natural gas industry are driving the creation of the very clean technologies needed to bring emissions down both in Canada and around the world. Oil and natural gas companies representing the majority of production in Canada are investing $24 billion on projects to help reduce annual GHG emissions from operations by 22 million tonnes by 2030, and have committed to emission neutrality by 2050. Putting an end to or hampering this important work, and continued tepid support for increased LNG export, is the best way for your government to fail in its goal of reducing our nation’s and the world’s emissions. It would be the ultimate example of scoring on our own net.

The Alberta energy sector has grown and thrived through innovation, providing good paying jobs for thousands and contributing billions of dollars in tax revenue for all levels of government.  They will continue to evolve and adapt to new technologies in search of new low to zero-emitting fuel sources like hydrogen and provide new, high-paying skilled jobs for decades to come. It is essential that the federal government stands shoulder to shoulder with Alberta to reduce emissions and continue to develop our oil and natural gas and future energy sources responsibly, while also positioning Canada as the optimal solution to global energy needs and security.

Prime Minister, we can and must work together. Operating in political silos, as adversaries on this issue, is getting us nowhere, and I believe all Canadians are tired of seeing it. Canada should be the world’s greatest energy superpower. It can be, if we come together collaboratively in pursuit of that objective. There is no limit to our nation’s potential.

Let’s turn the page starting with a meeting between us next month followed by a dedicated effort to craft “Sustainable Jobs” legislation that a vast majority of Albertans and Canadians will welcome and support. The consequences of missing this opportunity will be dire for the Canadian and Alberta economies, workforce and environment.

I look forward to your prompt reply.

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Home Depot gave personal data to Meta without valid customer consent: watchdog

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Ottawa – Retailer Home Depot shared details from electronic receipts with Meta, which owns the social media platform Facebook, without the knowledge or consent of customers, the federal privacy watchdog has found.

In a report released Thursday, privacy commissioner Philippe Dufresne said the data included encoded email addresses and in-store purchase information.

The commissioner’s investigation discovered that the information sent to Meta was used to see whether a customer had a Facebook account.

If they did have an account, Meta compared what the customer bought at Home Depot to advertisements sent over the platform to measure and report on the effectiveness of the ads.

Meta was also able to use the customer information for its own business purposes, including user profiling and targeted advertising unrelated to Home Depot, the commissioner found.

It is unlikely that Home Depot customers would have expected their personal information to be shared with a social media platform simply because they opted for an electronic receipt, Dufresne said in a statement.

He reminded companies that they must obtain valid consent at the point of sale to engage in this type of activity.

“As businesses increasingly look to deliver services electronically, they must carefully consider any consequential uses of personal information, which may require additional consent.”

Details of a person’s in-store purchases might not have been sensitive in the context of the home-improvement retailer, but they could be in other cases, revealing information about an individual’s health or sexuality, he added.

At a news conference, Dufresne suggested the Home Depot matter was not an isolated case.

“Our investigation focused on one organization, one situation, but our sense is that these tools are widely used. And this is why the message today is that all organizations should review their practices.”

Home Depot told the privacy commissioner it relied on implied consent and that its privacy statement, available through its website and in print upon request at retail outlets, adequately explained the company’s use of information. The retailer also cited Facebook’s privacy statement.

The commissioner rejected Home Depot’s argument, saying the privacy statements were not readily available to customers at the checkout counter and shoppers would have no reason to seek them out.

“The explanations provided in its policies were ultimately insufficient to support meaningful consent,” Dufresne’s statement said.

He recommended that Home Depot stop disclosing the personal information of customers who request an electronic receipt to Meta until it is able to put in place measures to ensure valid consent.

Home Depot fully co-operated with the investigation, agreed to implement the recommendations and stopped sharing customer information with Meta in October, the commissioner said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2023.


Meta funds a limited number of fellowships that support emerging journalists at The Canadian Press.

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