MP Clement admits to inappropriate online behaviour, says alleged extortionist was 'foreign actor'
Published Thursday, November 8, 2018 1:23PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, November 8, 2018 5:50PM EST
OTTAWA – MP Tony Clement has admitted to additional instances of inappropriate exchanges that "led to acts of infidelity," and crossed lines that he said should not have been crossed.
In a lengthy statement posted to his MP website on Thursday, Clement said one of these exchanges "led to a woman being offered money by an anonymous social media account in exchange for the disclosure of intimate and personal information," and that he reported this to the Ontario Provincial Police last summer.
The longtime MP revealed late Tuesday that over the last three weeks he had sent sexually explicit images and a video of himself to someone who he thought was a consenting female, but allegedly turned out to be an extortionist. The RCMP is currently investigating the matter to determine who is responsible.
In the new statement, Clement says this most recent financial extortion attempt was from someone he believes is a "foreign actor."
On Wednesday he was removed from the Conservative caucus as "numerous reports of other incidents" were brought to Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer's attention. Initially Scheer said he was willing to take the high-profile Tory at his word that it was a one-time thing.
Since the news broke about Clement, young women have posted unverified claims on social media alleging that Clement made them feel uncomfortable by liking their photos and sending them messages on Instagram.
His statement came shortly before publication of a Toronto Star story about two women who said they had relationships with Clement -- one online only -- and who said Clement knew in the summer that someone was offering money for embarrassing details about him. Both had first met Clement on social media.
Reacting to the latest developments at an event in Brampton, Ont., Scheer said that Thursday was the first time he had heard about the provincial police probe into Clement’s online activity, and denied any prior knowledge of any of his former MP's past behaviour.
"This was a shock to me when I was made aware of the situation and there was no indication that this sort of thing was happening."
Concerns have been raised over whether the MP’s actions could have national security implications given he was a member of the closed-door, top-secret National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians.
Clement, a two-time leadership contender and former Conservative cabinet minister, said that “at no time” did his personal indiscretions impact his work, though Scheer said that the national security agencies who screened Clement before he joined the committee were not aware either.
Scheer would not comment on the amount of money the latest extortionist was seeking from Clement.
On CTV's Power Play, former CSIS head Richard Fadden criticized Clement'sdecision not to take the first alleged instance of blackmail right to the RCMP, his leader, and the chair of the high-level committee.
"On that committee where he has access to the country’s most delicate secrets, you cannot put yourself in a position where you’re susceptible to extortion or blackmail. You just can’t," Fadden said. "I were a foreign power trying to figure out, you know, how I was going to get myself into somewhere in the government of Canada, I would have said to myself this is not a bad place to try."
As for whether this situation could have broader implications for Canada’s elections, and whether it’s evidence of foreign actors seeking to interfere, Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould said she’d leave it to the national security agencies to look into this specific case, but that "it's incumbent upon us as Parliamentarians to hold ourselves to the highest account so we don’t put ourselves in those situations."
In the new statement, Clement said he wanted to address "a number of poor decisions" that he made "during a period of personal difficulty and weakness."
"While these exchanges were entirely consensual and mutual, they were absolutely wrong and should never have occurred," Clement said.
The 57-year-old said he’s let down his wife, family, friends, supporters, constituents, colleagues, and his staff.
"Pride and vanity got the better of me, and shame held me back from getting back to the path of good," Clement said, offering an apology to the women he engaged with in these exchanges, as well as anyone else who felt he had crossed boundaries or made them feel uncomfortable, unbeknownst to him.
His wife Lynne Golding is a Toronto-based lawyer. She issued a statement to the Parry Sound North Star, saying she sincerely appreciated the concern at this "difficult time," and asked for privacy.
Clement said that he intends to stay on as an elected federal official and representative of his Parry Sound-Muskoka riding while he seeks help and efforts to repair his marriage.
Before being ousted from caucus, he had already resigned from all additional parliamentary and committee duties. He is now listed as an Independent MP, sitting on the back bench alongside a handful of other MPs who were removed from their respective caucuses over allegations of misconduct.
"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," he said.
With files from CTV News' Rachel Gilmore