Clement tar­geted twice af­ter in­fi­deli­ties

‘Pride and van­ity got the bet­ter of me’

National Post (National Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - Marie-danielle Smith

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.”

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