NDP mailings: MPs to hear legal options to recover House funds

MPs looking into the NDP's alleged misuse of parliamentary resources will soon get a crash course on how, exactly, the House may be able to recover $36,000 in expenses related to mass mailings deemed inappropriate by the all-party Board of Internal Economy.

New Democrats want investigation called off after Speaker rules House order went too far

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has indicated that he won't return to committee to face more questions on his party's allegedly improper use of House funds. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

MPs looking into the alleged misuse of parliamentary resources by New Democrat MPs will soon get a crash course on how, exactly, the House of Commons may be able to recover $36,000 in expenses related to mass mailings deemed inappropriate by the all-party Board of Internal Economy.

The procedure and House affairs committee voted Tuesday to invite deputy law clerk Richard Denis to appear at his earliest convenience — possibly as early as Wednesday, depending on his schedule.

The move was triggered by a formal meeting request signed by all five Conservative members and submitted to committee chair Joe Preston last week.

Late Tuesday, Marc Bosc, deputy clerk of the House of Commons, and Mark G. Watters, the House of Commons chief financial officer, were also added to the list of witnesses for Wednesday's meeting.

NDP calls for end of probe

Before debate on the motion to call Denis to the committee got underway, New Democrat House Leader Peter Julian made a concerted effort to convince Preston to shut down the investigation into his party's expenses entirely, citing the ruling handed down by House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer last week.

Scheer concluded the original House order that set the stage for the investigation should never have been allowed to go to the floor in the first place, as it went well beyond the intended use of the little-known provision employed by the government to put it forward for unanimous consent. 

He told the House that he would have been inclined to rule it out of order had he been asked to do so within a reasonable time frame.

Instead, Julian waited nearly two months to lodge a formal complaint, rising to do so just days before his leader was scheduled to appear before the committee.

As that appearance was, in fact, the main objective of the motion, and had already happened, Scheer determined that there was little to be done after the fact.

Although Conservative MP Tom Lukiwski acknowledged Scheer had made it clear he would have likely dismissed the motion, he said Scheer did not go on to deem either the House order or the study that it spawned to be null and void.

NDP wants auditor general to review all House mailings

In the absence of such a retroactive declaration, Lukiwski argued, the committee was perfectly within its rights to carry on its investigation — and, indeed, has actually passed a follow-up motion to do so, based on the evidence heard so far.

Ultimately, the chair sided with Lukiwski  — as, eventually, did lone Liberal Kevin Lamoureux, who voted with his Conservative colleagues to call in the deputy law clerk.

Before the committee broke for the day, however, New Democrat MP David Christopherson served notice of yet another counter-proposal —  a motion that, if passed, would ask Auditor General Michael Ferguson to wade into the debate by conducting a full review of all mass mailings sent out at taxpayer expense.

Given the looming adjournment, Christopherson he may have to wait until the fall to make his case to call in the outside authorities.


Kady O'Malley covered Parliament Hill for CBC News until June, 2015.