Canada PM should leave crumbling residence: probe

Tue May 6, 2008 2:07pm EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The official residence used by Canadian prime ministers is in such a terrible state that incumbent Stephen Harper should move out for a year to allow the building to be renovated, a watchdog said on Tuesday.

Auditor-General Sheila Fraser said Canada's image among foreign leaders could be damaged unless the residence at 24 Sussex Drive in central Ottawa receives C$12 million ($12 million) of renovations.

Prime ministers and their families have complained for decades about leaky windows and an inefficient heating system that makes the building too hot in the summer and too cold in winter. One head of government was reduced to putting plastic sheeting over some windows to keep in the heat.

"The nature of the planned work, and the disruption it may cause to the lives of the Prime Minister and his family, is such that asking the Prime Minister to move out of the residence for the duration of the work must be considered as a practical solution," Fraser wrote in a report.

The government bought the three-storey 34-room building around 50 years ago and little work has been done on it since then. The windows, sewers, plumbing, wiring, heating and air conditioning systems all require major repairs.

Fraser said that if the residence was not upgraded, the result would be "more discomfort for its inhabitants, more difficulty fulfilling official functions and the risk of fostering a negative image of Canada with visiting foreign dignitaries."

No one in Harper's press office was immediately available for comment.

($1=$1 Canadian)

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper waits for the arrival of premiers before the start of the First Ministers meeting at 24 Sussex Drive, Harper's official residence, in Ottawa January 11, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>