03/27/2014 12:39 EDT | Updated 05/27/2014 05:59 EDT

Tom Mulcair to face grilling over NDP's 'outreach' offices

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair may soon find himself and his party on the other side of the procedure and House affairs committee microscope.

On Thursday morning, the House of Commons took the rare step of passing a motion that orders Mulcair to appear before the committee to answer questions on allegations of "improper use of House of Commons resources for partisan purposes."

Although it declines to go into further detail on exactly what alleged improprieties will be under investigation, the NDP has recently come under fire for using taxpayer funds on "outreach" offices in Montreal and Quebec City, as well as separate allegations related to House-funded bulk mailings during byelections.

The motion was introduced by Minister of State for Labour Kellie Leitch.

Here's the prepared text, courtesy of the government whip's office:

The move, which appeared to take the NDP completely by surprise, relied on a rarely-used provision in the Standing Orders that gives ministers a second chance to force through a motion initially denied unanimous consent.

While the NDP could still have blocked the motion by having 25 MPs rise in objection, it appears that they were unable to muster the necessary show of force on what was, quite literally, a moment's notice — and, it's worth noting, without the help of their Liberal colleagues, who remained seated.

Under the motion, Mulcair is required to take the stand on or before May 16, which means the committee will likely begin its investigation into the allegedly improper spending after it wraps up its review of the election bill, which is scheduled to be back in the House by early May.