Former Conservative MP Tony Clement has had inappropriate online relationships with more than one woman and went to the police months ago because someone was trying to pay one of the women to offer up intimate details of their exchanges, he admitted Thursday.
When Clement told Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer last week that he had shared explicit images of himself online in October and was being extorted to prevent the images from being released publicly, he insisted it was an isolated incident.
It was not.
“During a period of personal difficulty and weakness I engaged in inappropriate exchanges that crossed lines that should never have been crossed,” Clement wrote Thursday in a statement to his constituents in the Ontario riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka.
Scheer looked grim as he was forced to take time away from a policy announcement on crime in Brampton to respond to the latest admissions, posted by Clement just moments earlier.
“This was a shock to me when I was made aware of the situation,” said Scheer.
Despite knowing for several months that someone had been trying to dig up dirt on him, Clement continued to sit until Tuesday on Parliament’s national security and intelligence committee. Members have top-secret clearances and can be privy to extremely sensitive information.
Clement is no longer on that committee and the RCMP and the Privy Council Office are investigating possible security breaches.
Clement approached Scheer last week to let him know someone was trying to extort him because he’d sent explicit images and a video to someone he thought was a “consenting female.” He also asked the RCMP to investigate.
Thursday, Clement said the most recent extortion attempt was by “foreign actors” but provided nothing to explain why he believed that to be the case.
Clement’s lawyer, Joseph Neuberger, emailed media outlets Thursday warning them not to publish any of the explicit images or video they may be given and that doing so without Clement’s consent would be a criminal offence.
Clement said he wouldn’t comment beyond what was in his statement.
He resigned as the Conservative justice critic and from his committee assignments Tuesday night. Wednesday morning, prior to the Conservatives’ weekly caucus meeting, Scheer said Clement would remain a Tory caucus member because he trusted Clement’s claim that he’d committed a single, though terrible, “lapse in judgement.”
But even by then, there was a growing number of women posting on social media sites that Clement had befriended them online, seemed to follow their activities closely, liked all their photos and sometimes contacted them privately through direct messages, often in the wee hours of the morning.
A few hours later, Scheer said Clement was no longer welcome in the caucus because he had clearly lied when he said it was a single incident.
New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen said he knows of several Conservative MPs who told Scheer directly that he had no option other than to show Clement the door.
Scheer’s office would not confirm whether any MPs influenced his decision.
“The decision to ask Tony to resign was Mr. Scheer’s and his alone,” said Brock Harrison, the leader’s spokesman.
Clement wrote on Thursday that he had let himself and everyone who cares about him down.
“Pride and vanity got the better of me, and shame held me back from getting back to the path of good,” he wrote.
“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,” he wrote.
He said his constituency office will stay open and he will remain an MP.
Clement has already been reassigned a new seat in the back row of the House of Commons. He is in a small section with three other MPs – former Liberal cabinet minister Hunter Tootoo, former Liberal MP Darshan Kang and former NDP MP Erin Weir – who have also found themselves on the outs with their parties because of allegations of improper behaviour.
Clement was a Conservative party stalwart, a cabinet minister in Stephen Harper’s government and twice a candidate for the federal party leadership. He dropped out of the most recent leadership contest early on and endorsed Maxime Bernier. He also ran for the provincial Tory leadership in Ontario, where he was once a cabinet minister.
Clement is married to lawyer and author Lynne Golding.
Read the letter below.
This is Tony Clement and this message is for my constituents in Parry Sound – Muskoka.
I have had the tremendous honour and privilege of serving as your Member of Parliament since 2006, a trust that has been renewed through four consecutive federal elections. Whether on the government or opposition side of the aisle, whether serving at the Cabinet table or on the back bench, my top priority has always been, and continues to be, working for the people and communities of Parry Sound – Muskoka. I have done so tirelessly, with passion and enjoyment from the first moment I received the honour to work on your behalf.
I have always aimed to serve with humility and today, I am writing to you directly to address a number of poor decisions in my personal and private life. 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. One inappropriate exchange led to a woman being offered money by an anonymous social media account in exchange for the disclosure of intimate and personal information. I immediately reported this personal matter to the OPP last summer. Most recently, another inappropriate exchange led to foreign actors attempting to use my indiscretion for financial extortion which, without hesitation or second thought, I immediately reported to the RCMP. While these exchanges were entirely consensual and mutual, they were absolutely wrong and should never have occurred.
In conducting myself this way I’ve let down myself, my family, my friends and supporters, my community, my work colleagues, and my staff—basically everyone I care about and who care about me. Pride and vanity got the better of me, and shame held me back from getting back to the path of good. 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.
I want to be clear that at no time have these personal lapses impacted or involved my day to day work as a Member of Parliament on behalf of our communities. That said, I offer you no excuses for my conduct. I take full responsibility. Members of Parliament are expected to set a high standard, a standard I have failed to meet.
In particular, I have failed the most important person in my life, my wife who has been with me through the many ups and downs of public service. She has made many sacrifices along the way in order to build a loving home and a wonderful family. I cannot undo the pain and hurt my actions have caused. All I can do is own up to what I have done and commit myself to rebuilding our trust, however long that may take. The mistakes I have made in my personal life, for those who know me, do not reflect who I am. I am resolved to refocus, to work hard, and to heal the damage I have caused to those most important in my life.
I love my job and I love my family. I am committed to getting the professional help I need to continue serving my family, my community and my country in whatever ways I can. I wish to sincerely thank the many members of our community who have reached out to convey their thoughts and prayers to me. I can assure the residents of Parry Sound – Muskoka that my offices remain open and at your service, and that I will continue to uphold the responsibilities of being your Member of Parliament.
M.P., Parry Sound – Muskoka