Clement targeted twice after infidelities
‘Pride and vanity got the better of me’
OTTAWA • Admitting to serial infidelity and other “inappropriate” online exchanges, former cabinet minister Tony Clement revealed Thursday he contacted police last summer after someone offered to pay a woman to hand over his “intimate and personal information,” further fuelling a scandal that has raised questions about both national security and the ethics of sexting.
On Tuesday evening Clement confessed he had shared sexually explicit photos and a video with an account he believed belonged to a consenting woman, but which in fact belonged to a “foreign actor” who then demanded money. He had contacted the RCMP immediately, he said. He resigned that evening from his critic and committee roles within the Conservative caucus. Global News reported that night the person had demanded Clement pay them 50,000 euros.
Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer initially said he “took Tony at his word” that it had been an isolated incident, but as allegations swirled about Clement’s online behaviour he later asked Clement, the 57-year-old MP for the Ontario riding of Parry Sound-muskoka, to resign from caucus.
On Thursday the MP posted an open letter to his constituents on his website. “During a period of personal difficulty and weakness I engaged in inappropriate exchanges that crossed lines that should never have been crossed. These exchanges led to acts of infidelity,” Clement wrote. He also revealed a previous attempt to obtain material that would compromise him.
During the summer, Clement wrote, an anonymous social media account offered money to a woman with whom he was interacting in exchange for betraying his confidences, leading him to contact the Ontario Provincial Police.
OPP Staff Sgt. Carolle Dionne confirmed to the National Post that Clement had contacted them in the summer of 2018, but would not offer further details. A spokesman for Scheer said Thursday Clement had not disclosed that incident or his contact with the OPP to the party.
Months later came the extortion attempt.
In November 2017, Clement became one of two Conservatives appointed to a special committee of parliamentarians tasked with overseeing the work of Canada’s spy agencies. Its members are given thorough security briefings, rendering them responsible for sensitive information about national security information and theoretically making them potential targets for blackmail. They are expected to disclose any changes to their personal lives that could affect their clearance. There is no public indication that either incident was related to Clement’s role on the committee, but even so, as security experts such as Carleton University professor Stephanie Carvin have told the National Post, questions of judgment raised by this case are important because if agencies feel they can’t fully trust members of the committee “it will damage its credibility.” The RCMP confirmed an investigation was underway but declined to comment further.
The Toronto Star reported Clement had informed the Privy Council Office, the highest office in the civil service, of the extortion attempt that led him to contact the RCMP. It was not immediately clear whether he had also informed the PCO of the incident in the summer.
Parliament Hill was initially in shock — although Clement was known to be unusually active on social media, several people who had worked with him for years expressed disappointment that any lines had been crossed. “Most people thought the volume of ‘Instagram-liking’ was strange, but I don’t think many would have predicted him taking it to this next level,” said one Conservative source, calling it “a cautionary tale for his fellow colleagues.”
Shortly after Clement published his open letter Thursday, the Star reported that two unnamed women had participated in consenting intimate relationships with the married MP — both of which had started online and one of which had resulted in a physical affair, according to the women’s accounts. Clement did not immediately respond to the Post’s request for comment.
“While these exchanges were entirely consensual and mutual, they were absolutely wrong and should never have occurred,” Clement said in the letter, admitting he failed his wife and failed to meet the “high standard” expected of Members of Parliament. “I apologize to the women with whom the exchanges occurred, and I also apologize to anyone else who felt in any way that I crossed online boundaries that made them feel uncomfortable, even without my knowing. I am deeply sorry.”
Reacting to the letter, Scheer told reporters on Thursday afternoon he was glad to see Clement take responsibility for his actions. “I don’t think too many people need to be told that it’s inappropriate to send explicit photos and videos to people you’ve never met,” he said. “These types of things happen in every profession. In politics it happens in every party. There are people who have lapses in judgment.”
In the wake of Clement’s initial revelations Wednesday, several young women had used social media to state publicly they’d felt uncomfortable when Clement had contacted them via a social platform or liked their posts late at night, although none alleged that the content of those isolated direct messages was sexual.
“There are varying degrees of creepy and inappropriate behaviour when it comes to social media,” said Claire Mcwatt, who shared such a story on Twitter. She told the Post she remembered hearing from Clement, whom she did not know, at 1 a.m. one night five or six years ago, when she was 22 or 23. His attempt to engage in late-night, private chit-chat stuck with her as a “weird” incident. Others shared similar accounts.
“What we need now is for the men who are being creepy to recognize the difference between what is appropriate and what isn’t, and to make that the focus of the discourse,” said Mcwatt. “Because every single day, politicians engage online and somehow don’t manage to be weird.”
Conservative MP Tony Clement in July 2016 as he waits to be introduced at a rally to announce his candidacy for the leadership of the federal Conservative Party. Clement apologized to constituents in an open letter Thursday for “a number of poor decisions in my personal and private life.”