'Shame and guilt': Clement reflects on the events that crumbled his political career
"Shame and guilt."
That’s what Tony Clement said he felt as he grappled with coming clean about the extent of his "improper behaviour."
"I had a severe personal crisis…I went down a deep, dark valley and I tried to get out by myself," Clement told Evan Solomon in an interview for CTV’s Question Period.
"I was not successful."
Clement thought he was sending explicit images and video to someone he believed to be a consenting woman. Police in West Africa ended up arresting two men for allegedly posing as the woman in an attempt to blackmail Clement.
The news broke in November 2018 and less than 24 hours after the blackmail attempt became public, Clement was ejected from the Conservative caucus. Clement has since admitted to sharing sexually explicit images and video with multiple women.
Five months later, Clement has announced he will not seek re-election in October.
The saga crumbled Clement’s 25-year political career.
Clement sat on a top secret parliamentary national security committee at the time of the scandal. He said that when one of the accused launched a blackmail attempt, he knew he had to come clean.
"It was instantaneous that I knew I had to do what anyone would consider the right thing, that is to say, inform the authorities like the RCMP, inform my caucus whip Mark Strahl, inform my wife," he said.
Clement said the RCMP ultimately found there was no national security risk as a result of his actions. He said it was simply a case of these actors "trying to squeeze some dollars out of a hapless guy."
However, for the former Conservative cabinet minister and failed Conservative leadership candidate, the personal fallout of the incident was significant.
"It's been, as you know, humiliating and not fun for my family as well, but I really felt that this was 'now or never,' in terms of turning my life around," he said.
"And that's what I’ve been doing."
Clement said he got help after the incident in the form of counselling, which taught him to put in place boundaries and guard rails to prevent a return to what he called "irrational behaviour."
"I don't think my headspace was in the right space, and I never want to do this again," Clement said.
He continues to attend counselling to this day.
Clement has said the behavior was his own responsibility, but when asked if the fast-paced, often-lonely life of a politician contributed to him entering what he described as a "dark" place, he said yes – and recommended his colleagues seek help if they need it.
"I'd like to…send a direct message to other parliamentarians and my colleagues. If you are facing anything similar to what I faced, and it may be alcohol, it may be drugs, or it may be gambling or it may be shopaholism, whatever – get the help," he said.
"Get the help early."
Clement said he believes he could have won his riding again, but he looked at the whole picture and decided he didn't want to impact Scheer's electoral race – even if Scheer had asked him to run under the Conservative banner once more.
"I don't want to be a distraction. Other options that were available to me – running as an Independent, running for [People's Party Leader Maxime] Bernier, neither of those appealed to me."
Now, as Clement closes the political chapter of his life following what he called his personal crisis, he said he feels "tranquil and content."
As for what's next, he said he doesn't know. Clement plans to finish his term as a member of Parliament and spend time with his wife and children. Then, he says, he'll start to make some decisions about his non-political future.
"I'm going to kind of decompress a little bit," he said. "I'm going to take my time."