Tom Mulcair to face MPs over use of House resources next week
NDP commitee members preemptively dismiss House-ordered appearance as a 'witch hunt'
Despite objections from the New Democrats, Conservative and Liberal MPs joined forces to pass a motion officially inviting NDP Leader Tom Mulcair to appear before the House procedure committee next week.
The decision came after a rancorous meeting that saw New Democrat MPs Peter Julian and David Christopherson castigate their committee colleagues for proceeding apace with a process that they preemptively dismissed as a "witch hunt" and a "kangaroo court."
Last month, the House passed a rare motion instructing the committee to convene a special televised session to question Mulcair on what Conservatives allege is inappropriate use of Commons money to pay for "satellite offices" in Quebec and Saskatchewan.
As a Member of Parliament, Mulcair cannot be compelled to come before committee.
Still, both his office and his parliamentary representatives at committee have made it clear that he's ready and willing to appear — although not, it seems, for an indefinite period of time.
Already tense from the moment the gavel dropped, the mood around the committee table turned downright acrimonious after Conservative and Liberal members voted down a proposal to limit Mulcair's appearance to one hour — a courtesy that, the New Democrats repeatedly pointed out, is regularly accorded to cabinet ministers.
Unmoved, the other parties rejected the request, with Conservative MP Scott Reid noting they can put off discussion of extending such privileges to Mulcair until he becomes prime minister.
Motion passes despite NDP objections
The committee also agreed to expand the list of background documents to be requested from House administration to include additional correspondence related to the out-of-town satellite outposts — an amendment the New Democrats supported.
Ultimately, the motion passed easily, albeit without the support of the NDP, who nevertheless maintained their staunch assertions that Mulcair was looking forward to the experience.
Earlier in the session, Christopherson attempted to convince committee chair Joe Preston to rule the whole thing out of order on the grounds that the board of internal economy had determined that the party didn't appear to have breached existing rules. .
He has also served notice that he intends to put forward a motion that would propose inviting Prime Minister Stephen Harper to appear before the committee to answer questions on the alleged use of a Conservative Party database in placing misdirecting robocalls during the 2011 election.
But while Christopherson had initially planned to make that case during Tuesday's session, he agreed to hold off until next time due to time constraints.
The committee is scheduled to reconvene Thursday.