OTTAWA - The last legislative fight of the spring session in the Commons appears to have been won by the New Democrats.
The decision by the House to adjourn for the summer a few days early nixed Conservative efforts to amend a private member's bill to strip Canadian citizenship from dual nationals convicted of terrorist acts.
"We got the end of an odious bill in immigration that would have deprived Canadians of their citizenship illegally but it would have had to have been fought before the courts," NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said Wednesday in celebrating the amendment's demise.
"It was disgusting what (Immigration Minister) Jason Kenney was trying to do in that bill."
Conservative MP Devinder Shory's bill originally had two aims.
It would have accelerated citizenship for the handful of permanent residents who serve in the Canadian Forces, while stripping it from dual nationals who committed acts of war against the Canadian military.
Initially, the bill had received lukewarm support from opposition MPs.
But after news in February that a Canadian with dual citizenship was suspected of involvement in a bus bombing in Bulgaria, the government decided to expand the legislation.
The Conservatives introduced an amendment to the bill at the citizenship committee which would have also stripped the Canadian citizenship from dual nationals convicted of terrorist acts.
Opposition MPs vehemently opposed the change, partially on the grounds that the government was subverting parliamentary procedure by monkeying with a private members' bill to fulfil their own goals.
So for the last week of the sitting, NDP MPs used stalling tactics at committee to prevent the Conservatives from being granted extra time to study the bill and the amendments.
The gambit kept the committee sitting around the clock for several days and saw tempers flare several times, both in the committee room and on social media, where MPs and political staffers alike battled over who was in the right.
But with the House deciding to adjourn late Tuesday, the bill has been forced back to the House of Commons calendar in the fall without the amendments.
Government House leader Peter Van Loan scoffed at the notion that the New Democrats had won any kind of fight.
"For some reason that really escapes me, Thomas Mulcair believes the most important policy priority for the NDP in this Parliament was protecting the rights of terrorists and those who commit treason against Canada in acts of war," he said.
"I don't happen to share that view. Our government certainly doesn’t share that view. We think that people who commit those kind of acts should pay that price."
Van Loan said the government still backs Shory's bill, along with its amendments, and intends to find a way to see them through.
Shory suggested opposition MPs are likely to face the wrath of their constituents over the issue as they return to their ridings.
"I want to assure all Canadians that I will not let this issue die, and I will use all parliamentary options available to ensure that convicted terrorists lose their citizenship," he said in a statement.
The bill is one of dozens of pieces of private member's legislation that have been put forward by the Conservatives in the last two years. Private member's bills have traditionally had little chance of becoming law.
But the Conservatives have embraced the private member's route, a tactic Van Loan called a success. In the past, only about one private member's bill became law each year, he said.
By the end of June, Van Loan said he expects more than 14 such bills will have received royal assent in the last two years.
"This is an unprecedented level of individual members of Parliament bringing forward and passing ideas which are very important to them and to their constituents," he said.
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