OTTAWA – Less than 24 hours after longtime MP Tony Clement revealed that he sent sexually explicit images and a video of himself to someone who allegedly turned out to be an extortionist, he's out of the Conservative caucus as "numerous reports of other incidents" surfaced.
Initially, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was willing to allow Clement to remain in caucus, saying he was "very disappointed" but "taking Tony at his word" that he understood this exchange to be with a consenting adult, and that it was the first and only time he'd done something like this.
However, later the same day, Scheer announced Clement, 57, was out at the leader's request.
"There have been numerous reports of other incidents, allegations, so in that respect I've asked Tony to resign from caucus so that he can respond to these allegations," Scheer said, citing "new information" without offering specifics on the nature of these additional allegations.
On Tuesday night, Clement issued a statement saying that over the last three weeks he had been sending the images and video to someone he believed was "a consenting female recipient."
"The recipient was, in fact, an individual or party who targeted me for the purpose of financial extortion. The RCMP are currently investigating the matter to determine the identity of the party responsible for the extortion attempt," Clement said.
In making the stunning admission, Clement resigned his additional parliamentary duties but intended to remain a Conservative MP as he sought to get help and work on his personal and family life.
The two-time leadership contender and active social media user is now poised to join a handful of other Independent MPs sitting on the backbench in the House of Commons.
Scheer is not ruling out the prospect of a party or parliamentary investigation into Clement's alleged actions, depending on what complaints are officially raised. The Tory leader was first made aware of the situation late last week, and had a face-to-face conversation with Clement about his actions at the beginning of this week.
"Obviously it's a terrible lapse of judgment that we’re all disappointed in," Scheer told reporters Wednesday morning.
On CTV's Power Play, a panel of female MPs from the three main parties agreed that members of Parliament are held to a different standard, and the actions of their colleague were not acceptable. The MPs also expressed concern that more women were coming forward with unverified accounts, about their online experiences with Clement.
National security concerns
The RCMP has confirmed that they are investigating the information provided by Clement.
"We can confirm that we have received information from the complainant and that we are currently investigating the matter. As such, we cannot further comment at this point," said the RCMP in an emailed statement to CTV News.
Clement was one of the Conservative members on the closed-door, top-secret National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. Members of this committee require security clearances, prompting questions over potential information security ramifications.
"It's not for me to speculate that level of what motivated this person to go down this path," Scheer said when asked about who may have been behind this extortion attempt.
The Prime Minister's Office and the Privy Council Office have been aware of the situation for a few days.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that he had no comment on the matter.
In a statement to CTV News, the Privy Council Office said that it "takes matters of national security extremely seriously," and that when they became aware of the situation, they immediately referred the matter to the RCMP and "took every precaution necessary to safeguard Canada’s national security."
In an interview with CTV News, Carleton University professor and former national security analyst Stephanie Carvin said at this point many questions remain, including whether the person or persons on the other end of Clement’s messages was a "random" criminal, or some kind of foreign agency or actor.
"He's someone with access to not just classified information, but any classified information and any intelligence that’s used by any government department in Canada. His access actually extraordinary. And if he's put himself in a position where he can be blackmailed, this is a very serious national security problem," Carvin said.
This committee has been up and running for only a year, and as a result it is still working to build trust with its international counterparts. Carvin said an incident of this nature could prompt hesitation on the part of other nations or security agencies when it comes to sharing information in the future.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told reporters on Wednesday that he doesn’t think this situation impugns the integrity of the committee, but that it underscores the importance of who is selected to be a member.
Asked about the kind of training MPs who are on the committee receive, Goodale said he didn’t know the specifics, but that generally when MPs are in high level positions such as cabinet—as Clement was under then-prime minister Stephen Harper between 2006 and 2015— "you are briefed on potential vulnerabilities, on the tactics and techniques that may be used by those who might want to compromise the national security of Canada. You are warned of the kinds of risks and threats that you may face."
Member of the committee, Conservative Sen. Vern White told CTV News on Wednesday that he couldn’t comment on the kind of training members receive as its done in a secure environment.
"Suffice it to say that we understand the seriousness of the position," he said.
Wife calls it a 'difficult time'
In the statement Clement issued Tuesday, the longtime Parry Sound-Muskoka MP who is married with three children apologized for his "very poor judgment" and said he plans to seek treatment, while maintaining his duties as an MP.
"I recognize now that I have gone down a wrong path and have exercised very poor judgment. First and foremost, I apologize to my family for the needless pain and humiliation my actions have caused. I also apologize to my colleagues and my constituents for letting them down," Clement said.
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.
"As Tony mentioned in his statement, he will now be taking the action he needs to get help. I am hopeful that in time we will resume the happy life we shared with our family and friends. I won’t have anything more to say about this for reasons which I hope you will understand," she wrote.
In his initial statement Tuesday night, Scheer said he was encouraged that Clement is seeking help and wished him "all the best in doing so." It is unclear what kind of treatment Clement will be pursuing.
Scheer said over the last few years his caucus has had many conversations about appropriate workplace conduct.
"I don't know that too many people would have to be told not to share explicit images and videos with people that you haven’t met," Scheer said.
It is unclear whether Clement will be allowed to run again in 2019 under the Conservative banner.
For now, Deputy Conservative Leader Lisa Raitt will take on the role of justice critic. Replacements for Clement's committee roles have yet to be announced.
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