Reno 911! The math on 24 Sussex

Reno 911! The math on 24 Sussex

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Thanks for reading Ottawa Playbook. Let’s get into it.

In today’s edition:

→ We re-enter the fray on 24 Sussex

→ The PMO’s August to-do list

→ A certain former CPC leadership contestant is raising money

24 SUSSEX DIVE — Does anybody really know how much it would cost to renovate the official residence where prime ministers used to live? Rats and all?

A low-profile heritage development group with a strong desire to save 24 Sussex Drive has doubts about the numbers at the heart of the public debate.

Historic Ottawa Development Inc (HODI) — a group of developers, architects, researchers and heritage advocates — says Ottawans deserve a credible reno estimate that could maybe, possibly, please for the love of god, help bring to an end the federal government’s neverending dithering on what to do with the building at the end of Sussex Drive.

— C$36.6 million: The most commonly cited cost to fix up 24. Journalists use it all the time. Wikipedia, too.

It’s not some random number.

The National Capital Commission, the crown corp that manages every official residence, referenced that figure in a 2021 asset portfolio condition report of the taxpayer-funded residences provided to PM JUSTIN TRUDEAU, Opposition Leader PIERRE POILIEVRE and House Speaker ANTHONY ROTA.

Except the “nearly $37 million” source didn’t come from the NCC’s in-house number-crunchers.

— The report behind the number: The deferred maintenance costs cited in that 2021 report were “estimated and validated by Turner & Townsend,” a global consulting firm tasked by the NCC to scrutinize 2009 cost estimates for a full-scale 24 Sussex reno.

HODI got its hands on a heavily redacted version of the consultants’ 2017 report, which blacks out every single cost estimate — but reveals the component parts.

That’s how the local org spotted red flags. Here are three.

→ Expansion plans: The consultants’ estimates were not just for a reno of 24, but also a planned 4,000 sq-ft expansion of the main building to “improve universal accessibility, functionality and livability.” The docs also incorporate costs to reconstruct the pool building installed during PIERRE TRUDEAU‘s years in office (including part of Prime Minister JUSTIN TRUDEAU‘s childhood).

Unknown unknowns: Turner & Townsend built a 20 percent WTF contingency into the project cost estimate — as in, “WTF will we uncover in a 155-year-old building that we don’t expect?”

The report notes no “as-built” drawings exist for 24 Sussex. Those plans would give a precise understanding of every square inch of the space, studs and all, at the time of the building’s construction. Alas, no such luck.

“Discoveries of unforeseen substances, during construction, can have significant deleterious effects on cost and schedule for any heritage restoration project,” the consultants wrote.

In other words: The renovators won’t know what they’re dealing with behind the walls until they see it with their own eyes — and what they find could balloon costs.

Cost allowances: Turner & Townsend also built in allowances that offer budgetary breathing room on “specific and identified scope elements for which sufficient detail is not available” — put another way, reno design plans aren’t far along enough to be budgeted precisely.

— Why are those red flags? KEN GRAFTON, project director and spokesperson on this file for HODI, says the C$36.6 million estimate — often rounded up, he notes — includes far more than deferred maintenance.

A 4,000 sq-ft expansion is an expansion, Grafton contends. The contingency applied to the totality of the project. And the cost allowance cushion in the consultants’ report could include any aspect of the 24 Sussex revitalization. Had the estimates only included deferred maintenance, the price tag could change considerably.

— The upshot: A 2009 estimate, widely cited at the time, pegged the renos at C$10 million. The Turner & Townsend calculation offers more than triple the bill. HODI seeks clarity from the NCC, the procurement minister and anyone else who has a say in the dilapidated home’s fate.

— What’s next: Before she was dropped from Cabinet, then-procurement minister HELENA JACZEK promised a plan for 24 Sussex by this autumn. It’s now up to her successor, JEAN-YVES DUCLOS, to live up to that pledge — or not.

HODI’s view: “Continued delay in announcing a plan, with a revised cost estimate and commitment for project funding, will be detrimental to the future of 24 Sussex.”

Translation: Make a rational decision already, why don’t you?

— Prime Minister JUSTIN TRUDEAU is in private meetings in the National Capital Region.

NDP Leader JAGMEET SINGH is in St. John’s, where he’ll spend the day with MARY SHORTALL, a former Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour president and the NDP’s candidate in St. John’s East. Shortall is also Singh’s special adviser for the province.

9 a.m. Environment Minister STEVEN GUILBEAULT will make an announcement in Montreal on the recovery of species at risk in the St. Lawrence Lowlands.

10:30 a.m. Labor Minister SEAMUS O’REGAN is in Woodbridge, Ont., to launch the 2023-2024 call for proposals for community-based projects through the New Horizons for Seniors Program.

11 a.m. (12:30 p.m. NT) Singh and Shortall hold a media availability on “high grocery bills.”

11 a.m. (9 a.m. CT) Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister GARY ANANDASANGAREE is in Saskatoon, where he’ll join chiefs and community members from Treaty 4 and Treaty 6 First Nations to celebrate settlement agreements regarding Treaty Salaries Specific Claims.

AUGUST TO-DO LIST — Behind the scenes, the post-shuffle shuffle is afoot.

We asked the Prime Minister’s Office for timelines on a pile of appointments and assignments that follow a Cabinet reorg. Here’s why we’re curious.

— Vacation time: The prime minister and his family vacationed for the first two weeks of August in both 2021 and 2022. With a shuffle behind him, will the PM kick back and relax somewhere far, far away from Ottawa?

— Chiefs of staff: This week, ministerial chiefs of staff are sorting out their futures with the Prime Minister’s Office. Some might follow their bosses to new portfolios. Others could stay put in a ministry and offer continuity to the new boss. Still others could leave the Hill entirely, which would mean a promotion for a Hill climber who has impressed the PMO.

Meanwhile, the small army of staffers waits impatiently for their next permanent gig.

— Cabinet committees: A dozen of these were active before the shuffle, including the powerful “Agenda, Results and Communications” committee chaired by the PM.

— What we know: There’s a revamped Treasury Board to oversee spending and public service management. ANITA ANAND is the chair. DIANE LEBOUTHILLIER returns as vice chair. CHRYSTIA FREELAND is assigned a seat as finance minister. SEAMUS O’REGAN is back. CARLA QUALTROUGH joins. KAMAL KHERA is out.

We have more questions about Cabinet committees.

Will the twin committees on “Economy, Inclusion and Climate” — literally “A” and “B” teams with a total of 26 ministers — survive the shuffle? And will Qualtrough and FRANÇOIS-PHILIPPE CHAMPAGNE return as chairs?

DOMINIC LEBLANC currently chairs the influential operations committee. Anand leads the litigation management subcommittee. DAN VANDAL is at the top of the reconciliation committee. KARINA GOULD oversees Canada and the world. BILL BLAIR heads up safety, security and emergencies. MARCI IEN shepherds the task force on services to Canadians.

The chairs matter. In his guide to the tradecraft of politics, former PCO clerk MICHAEL WERNICK writes they aren’t appointed for show.

“The extra status and workload are things that you can use to reward allies, to keep rivals busy, or to develop a deeper bench,” he says. “Effective chairs help to keep your government moving forward, provide solid due diligence on both policy and politics, and sustain team morale.”

— Mandate letters: A shuffle as wide-ranging as last week’s could mean a new round of revised mandate letters for new ministers. Or not. We await word on how and when ministers will receive their marching orders.

— Parliamentary secretaries: Six of the seven newly promoted Cabinet ministers, all but RECHIE VALDEZ, were drawn from the parlsec ranks. That means six backbenchers who were disappointed by their exclusion from the big table will earn a consolation: more time on their feet in the House when their minister is away, a salary bump, and a spot that much closer to the Cabinet table. Maybe. One day.

MONEY, PLEASE — Conservative leadership runner-up JEAN CHAREST is headlining a pair of Toronto fundraisers Aug. 15 in search of donations to his former campaign.

Flashback: Charest managed to secure 16.07 percent of total points available in the contest that ended last September. The Poilievre juggernaut scooped up 68.15 percent.

— First stop, Albany Club: Charest is selling tickets at C$500 apiece to a “working lunch” at the inner sanctum of Canadian conservatives in downtown Toronto. The talk’s title: “One year later: Jean Charest’s perspectives on the 2022 CPC Leadership and the state of the conservative movement.”

— Next up, Skydome: Fine, Rogers Centre. When the Blue Jays host the Philadelphia Phillies (first pitch: 7:07 p.m.), Charest will be in the building. No word on the former Quebec premier’s interest in Loonie Dog Night at the Dome. (Jays fans gobbled up 75,173 on July 19 — an all-time record, and the equivalent of a decent haul for a cap-in-hand politician.)

— The Toronto Star’s TONDA MACCHARLES writes on the role Canada played in crafting a G-7 consensus on long-term security commitments to Ukraine.

— Elsewhere in the Star, ROB BENZIE reports on Premier DOUG FORD‘s frustration with two by-election losses last week for his Progressive Conservatives.

— House Leader KARINA GOULD shared her maternity leave plans with the Globe’s LAURA STONE.

— CP’s MICKEY DJURICreports the Conservative Party raised nearly C$7.9 million in donations in Q2, holding a C$5 million edge over the Liberals — the same margin from the first quarter of the year.

— The Hill Times considers the PM’s decision to use his Cabinet shuffle to fortify “the Liberal red wall” — Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.

JONATHAN MARTIN writes for the POLITICO Magazine: A 4-Way Race? The 2024 presidential contest is anything but settled.

— Former National Security and Intelligence Advisor VINCENT RIGBY and national security expert THOMAS JUNEAU penned a piece over at The Line offering up advice for the PM on setting up his new National Security Council.

In case you missed it, ROY MACGREGOR wrote about helping then-PM STEPHEN HARPER with his hockey book.

For POLITICO Pro subscribers, our latest policy newsletter: Tit-for-tat on minerals could just be the start

In news for POLITICO Pro subscribers:
California privacy czar sets sights on smart tech in cars.
The dangerous and frightening disappearance of the nuclear expert.
Chip industry faces new reality of weaponized supply chains.
Microsoft sets out latest bid to get Activision deal past U.K. regulator.

Birthdays: Sen. WANDA THOMAS BERNARD is 70! Also celebrating today: Crestview Strategy’s ROB MOORE.

Spotted: Departing law clerks at the Supreme Court of Canada … Conservative MP TODD DOHERTY calling out The Brick for its “English Only Zone!!!” sign … Former MPP MICHAEL GRAVELLE endorsing YASIR NAQVI for Ontario Liberal party leader … Conservative MP RACHAEL THOMAS quote-carding her own paraphrase of a MARGARET THATCHER kicker saying: “There is no such thing as public money; there is only taxpayers’ money.”

National Defense Minister BILL BLAIR’s social media receipt about his chat with U.S. Secretary of Defense LLOYD AUSTINLARISA GALADZA ending her tenure as Canada’s ambassador to Ukraine with a video quoting poet LESYA UKRAINKA … Indy MP KEVIN VUONG, promoted to lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy.

Movers and shakers: Health P.E.I. CEO Dr. MICHAEL GARDAM is quitting with a good explanation: “I am kind of part of the great resignation after the pandemic, to be honest with you. That was a very tiring three years,” he said. (h/t PEI Guardian’s STUART NEATBY).

Transport Minister PABLO RODRIGUEZ tapped MARTIN IMBLEAU as the first CEO of VIA HFR Inc. (that’s HFR for high frequency rail).

BRIAN BOHUNICKY Is leaving Public Policy Forum after three and a half years. Next up: “an engagement with the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, contributing to their growing advisory work in the Caribbean.”

DANIEL GORDON, most recently deputy chief of staff and head of policy to Ontario Premier DOUG FORD, joined Wellington Advocacy as chief growth officer.

Berkshire Hathaway joined the lobbyist registry with two priorities for federal officials: Canada’s position “with respect to the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act’s transferable credits” and OECD negotiations over a global minimum corporate tax rate on multinationals.

Media mentions: CTV Morning Live host ANNETTE GOERNER is wrapping up a 23-year career in broadcasting this week: “My heart and my body have been telling me it’s time, for a while now.”

Journalist ASHLEIGH STEWART documenting (and celebrating) the 239 days it took to receive her Canadian permanent residency MICHELLE ZADIKIAN is leaving Yahoo Finance for a post at The Canadian Press as assistant business editor.

Monday’s answer: In 1913, American aviator ALYS MCKEY BRYANT became the first woman to fly in Canada.


Have another stumper for Playbook’s trivia players? Send it our way.

Today’s question: In 2021, MPs in the House voted unanimously to designate Aug. 1 Emancipation Day across Canada.

After the vote, who said: “I’m very pleased that there has been overwhelming support. For almost 200 years Emancipation Day has gone generally uncommemorated, and untaught, though people of African descent have lived in Canada since the transatlantic slave trade and the Indigenous Peoples of these territories predate the colonialists.”

Answers to [email protected].

Want to grab the attention of movers and shakers on Parliament Hill? Want your brand in front of a key audience of Ottawa influencers? Run a Playbook ad campaign. Contact Jesse Shapiro to find out how: [email protected].

Playbook wouldn’t happen without: POLITICO Canada editor Sue Allan, Luiza Ch. Savage and Emma Anderson.

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