‘How stupid do you think we are?’

Con­sul­tant an­gry over de­lay in Cle­ment fir­ing

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS / CANADA - KRISTY KIRKUP

TTAWA — Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer shouldn’t have taken Tony Cle­ment at his word that he’d only been in­volved in one im­proper on­line ex­change, a prom­i­nent con­ser­va­tive po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant says.

Alise Mills, a com­mu­ni­ca­tions strate­gist and se­nior as­so­ciate with the firm Sus­sex Strat­egy, said Fri­day that it made her very an­gry to think it was ever be­liev­able Cle­ment hadn’t crossed the line more than once, ei­ther on­line or in per­son. Peo­ple in the Con­ser­va­tive party knew that Cle­ment would fre­quent women’s so­cial-me­dia pages far more than other politi­cians, reg­is­ter­ing “likes” of their pho­tos and send­ing them mes­sages, she said.

“Like, how stupid do you think we are?” Mills said in an in­ter­view with The Cana­dian Press, adding that the Con­ser­va­tives should have kicked Cle­ment out of the Tory cau­cus right away and confiscated his mo­bile phone.

Tues­day night, Cle­ment re­signed as the party’s jus­tice critic and from his com­mit­tee roles af­ter re­veal­ing that he’d shared sex­u­ally ex­plicit im­ages with some­one who wanted to ex­tort him.

He was not, at first, asked to leave cau­cus by Scheer. Scheer said he was tak­ing Cle­ment at his word that the “ter­ri­ble lapse in judg­ment” had been a one-time thing be­tween two con­sent­ing

Oadults — and that Cle­ment was ul­ti­mately the vic­tim. But later Wed­nes­day, Scheer said new in­for­ma­tion had be­come avail­able to sug­gest the al­le­ga­tions were not iso­lated.

Mills told a ra­dio show air­ing on Sir­ius XM Fri­day that she ended her own friend­ship with the for­mer Con­ser­va­tive MP and cabi­net min­is­ter af­ter she felt his be­haviour to­ward her crossed a line, but she did not de­tail specifics.

Cle­ment’s lawyer Joseph Neu­berger de­nied any in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­haviour.

“We are puz­zled as to what Ms. Mills al­leges as in­ap­pro­pri­ate as all con­tact be­tween Mr. Cle­ment and Ms. Mills has been noth­ing other than pro­fes­sional,” Neu­berger said in an email.

Cle­ment is­sued an open let­ter to his On­tario con­stituents on Thurs­day in which he apol­o­gized to any­one who felt he crossed “on­line bound­aries” in a way that made them feel un­com­fort­able, even without his knowl­edge.

Mills also said that prob­lems on Par­lia­ment Hill go far be­yond one politi­cian.

“There are many oth­ers on the Hill,” she told the show.

“It doesn’t mat­ter if they’re NDP, Lib­eral or Con­ser­va­tive.”

Women on Par­lia­ment Hill en­dure sys­temic and tar­geted ha­rass­ment from politi­cians of all stripes, she said, and share a feel­ing that their par­ties have bro­ken their trust.

“To know it is not just the out­side (where) you have to worry about the wolves, but the in­side? And they’re en­abling it?” she said. “There’s noth­ing more heart­break­ing... It makes you ask your­self, ‘Am I crazy?’”

Mills called on the par­ties to screen their would-be can­di­dates more care­fully.

“They have to un­der­stand what types of per­son­al­i­ties are at­tracted to pol­i­tics and pub­lic life,” she said.

“This world at­tracts some of the worst and we need to be on guard... the peo­ple who are there are sup­posed to be some of Canada’s finest.”

CHRIS YOUNG / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

MP Tony Cle­ment was re­moved from the Con­ser­va­tive party cau­cus on Wed­nes­day.

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