Government approves purchase of Ottawa property from friend of prime minister

By Glen McGregor

The Trudeau government has approved a decision by the National Capital Commission to buy a key piece of real estate in downtown Ottawa that is partially owned by a close friend of the prime minister.

On May 24, the Privy Council Office published an order-in-council approving the NCC’s plan to purchase the building at the corner of Sparks Street and O’Connor Street, a block from Parliament Hill.

The property is currently registered to 148-152 Sparks St., an Ontario corporation partly owned by Tom Pitfield, a long-time friend of Justin Trudeau.

The Prime Minister’s Office referred questions about the purchase to a spokesperson for Public Services and Procurement Canada, which said Trudeau was not involved in the cabinet approval of the deal.

“This Order-in-Council was submitted to the Governor in Council via the Treasury Board process and was approved,” said PSPC spokesman Guillaume Bertrand in an emailed statement.

“An acquisition of this type requires Treasury Board approval only – it does not involve the approval of the Prime Minister or at a meeting of the full Cabinet.”

In an email, Pitfield confirmed he has an ownership position in the company but said he had not discussed the sale of the property with the prime minister or anyone else in cabinet.

“With respect to the office space that you reference, I have had a partial / minority stake in its ownership for more than 10 years now — and did not have any such conversations about the NCC’s decision with the officials that you mention,” he wrote.

Pitfield is listed on mortgage documents on the property, along with Ottawa lawyer Gordon Cudney, the company’s sole director, according to incorporation records.

The company purchased the property on Sparks St. in 2014 from Ages Holdings Ltd. and Murray Macy Enterprises Ltd. for $4.8 million. 

It includes a three-storey office building, retail space and a ground-floor restaurant. Canada2020, a think-tank with ties to the federal Liberals that Pitfield co-founded, has offices in the building

The NCC says the deal has not been finalized and did not say how much it will pay for the property.

“This property is in a prominent location along the Sparks Street pedestrian mall and in close proximity to the parliamentary precinct, enabling the NCC to advance its priorities in planning, developing, and improving the [National Capital Region] in alignment with its mandate,” NCC spokesperson Dominique Huras said in an email.

Pitfield is the son of the late Michael Pitfield, who served as the Clerk of the Privy Council when Trudeau’s father was prime minister. He is married to Montreal Liberal MP Anna Gainey, a past president of the Liberal Party of Canada.

The couple travelled with Trudeau and his family on holiday in Bahamas in 2016. The ethics commissioner found Trudeau had breached the federal ethics law on the trip by accepting a helicopter ride to the Aga Khan’s private island.

Pitfield’s relationship with the prime minister featured in a 2021 complaint to the federal ethics commissioner by Conservative MP Michael Barrett over contracts with Pitfield’s data analytics ccompany, Data Sciences. 

Barrett noted that many Liberal MPs had used their parliamentary office budgets to pay Data Sciences for software used to manage contacts with constituents.  The ethics commissioner, Mario Dion, later dismissed the complaint, saying he had no reason to believe Trudeau had acted to further Pitfield’s private interests.

Pitfield was chief digital strategist for Trudeau’s leadership bid in 2013 and did similar work on the Liberals’ election campaigns. 

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