Prime minister’s cottage renos cost more than disclosed to Parliament

Author: James Wood 2020/08/04

Costs for renovations on the prime minister’s cottage are hundreds of thousands of dollars more than federal officials told Parliament, according to documents obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

“A multi-million-dollar cottage renovation is just mind-boggling, especially considering the deficit we’re now facing,” said Aaron Wudrick, Federal Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. “At very least, federal officials need to be upfront and clear about what those costs actually are.”

The National Capital Commission is responsible for the cottage at Harrington Lake. The 13-acre property in Quebec is used by prime ministers and includes a 16-room main house and a newly built farmhouse, remade from a relocated caretaker’s cottage. The property is a short drive from the prime minister’s official residence on Sussex Drive in Ottawa.

Conservative Member of Parliament Michael Barrett submitted a formal written question to the NCC regarding construction and renovation costs at Harrington Lake.

The NCC submitted a response to Parliament pegging the cost at $8.6 million.

However, bills obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation total more than $10 million. Expenses that appear to be missing from the total provided to Parliament include $186,429 for removal of the caretaker’s house foundation and $280,174 for security infrastructure at the new farmhouse.

“The estimated costs provided to Parliament on July 20th, 2020, are different as they reflect the capital investment amounts budgeted, not the operational or maintenance budgets,” wrote a NCC spokesperson when asked to clarify. “In turn, ATIP 2020-00025 (the CTF’s access to information request) requested the Generic Actuals Report as ‘the cost of renovations, improvements, construction and maintenance…’”

This explanation doesn’t sit well with the MP who requested the information.

“I think that this is a government that is not transparent with Canadians, and the fact that they would only provide the minimum amount of information in hopes of clearing the lowest bar possible is not respectful,” said Barrett. “It demonstrates they’re not respectful of the public purse. They shy away from transparency. This (the farmhouse) is essentially a fourth mansion for the prime minister, and this one built in secret. This is only coming about not because the government proactively disclosed this, but because the Opposition, the media, and now your organization are asking them tough questions about it.”

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation asked Conservative leadership candidate Peter MacKay whether it’s time to sell Harrington Lake as the renovation costs soar.

“What does a prime minister need a cottage 20 minutes from his home for anyway?” MacKay said on the Canadian Taxpayers Podcast. “I see no hesitation in selling that property.”