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Over $40,000 spent to study abandoned, mouldy Harrington Lake barn

Author: James Wood 2021/03/23

Canadian taxpayers have paid $41,545 to study an abandoned, unheated storage barn at the prime minister’s cottage.

“Why are taxpayers paying more than $40,000 to study a dilapidated storage barn?” said Kris Sims, B.C. Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. “This is a bat-crap crazy waste of money.”

Harrington Lake is the federally owned prime ministerial retreat just outside Ottawa.

According to exclusive records obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the storage barn at Harrington Lake has extensive black mould, peeling lead paint, suspected animal corpses, animal droppings and broken windows.

The National Capital Commission is considering fixing the structure, so it did preliminary studies in 2019 that cost $41,545.

The NCC is planning to spend another $25,000 to keep the barn from collapsing in 2021. If fully restored, the NCC would still use it for storage, with an added carport.

“Only a handful of Canadians will ever see this building,” said Sims. “Paying to actually fix it is bad enough, but charging taxpayers more than $40,000 just to study fixing it is even worse. The government needs to sell the extravagant Harrington Lake retreat and be done with it.”

The barn rehab project is part of the NCC’s $10-million renovation plan for Harrington Lake, which the CTF reported on in 2020.

The NCC told the CTF it is still deciding whether to move ahead with the full rehabilitation of the storage barn and the full budget for the project is not yet determined.

The abandoned building does not have any federal heritage designations, but the NCC said it contributes to the “cultural landscape” of the cottage property.

It also said the barn project got going to address the storage needs for Harrington Lake’s maintenance operations.

“Due to a persistent lack of adequate funding, the building has reached such a state of disrepair that it became unsafe for staff to access for several years,” said the NCC in a statement.

The agency said “temporary and unsightly shelters” are used to accommodate maintenance operations, while the building continues to deteriorate.

“More than 40 per cent of Canadians are $200 away from insolvency each month, leaving them unable to pay all of their bills,” said Sims. “Yet taxpayers should care that the storage sheds at the prime minister’s cottage aren’t pretty enough? Seriously?”

As for demolition, the NCC said getting rid of the building would “incur significant expenditure,” involving an undetermined number of studies to ensure the work was done in a safe and environmentally responsible way.

The CTF has submitted multiple access to information requests to track down the full scope and cost of the renovations at Harrington Lake.