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Politics Clement forced out of caucus after complaints from women about social-media interactions

Tony Clement, seen waiting to be introduced at a rally to announce his candidacy for the leadership of the Conservative Party in Mississauga in July, 2016, was more likely a target because of his frequent interactions with women on social media, rather than because of his role on the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, according to government and Conservative officials.

Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Tony Clement has been pushed out of the Conservative caucus by party Leader Andrew Scheer after a number of women complained on social media Wednesday about the MP’s persistent online interactions with them.

A day earlier, Mr. Clement, who has represented Parry Sound-Muskoka in Ontario since 2006, acknowledged sending sexually explicit images to a person on the internet that he did not know and said the person then threatened to blackmail him with the pictures.

The RCMP are investigating the alleged extortion of Mr. Clement.

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Mr. Scheer said on Wednesday morning that the member of Parliament made a “poor decision” when he shared images and video with a person he did not know. Later, the Conservative Leader said he asked for Mr. Clement’s resignation once he learned about the complaints from women on social media.

“I took him at his word that this was an isolated incident. Since then, there have been numerous reports of other incidents, allegations. In that respect, I have asked Tony to resign from caucus so that he can respond to these allegations,” Mr. Scheer said.

The alleged extortion involving Mr. Clement has fuelled concerns in Ottawa that he had been targeted because of his role on the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, whose members have access to highly classified material as part of their oversight role over Canada’s security agencies.

But, government and Conservative officials say, Mr. Clement, a former party leadership contender, was more likely a target because of his frequent interactions with women on social media.

Two federal security sources said there are no indications at this point that Mr. Clement was preyed upon because he was a politician or for his work on the committee, which he officially left on Wednesday. Instead, Mr. Clement was likely the victim of an individual or group that baited him for financial profit, said the two sources who were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Rachel Curran, a former senior Conservative aide in the Harper government, said that based upon the allegations and information that came out on Tuesday, Mr. Clement was apparently engaged in messaging young women repeatedly, and that would constitute harassment.

In an e-mail to The Globe and Mail, Mr. Clement acknowledged numerous interactions on social media over the years, but denied any harassing behaviour.

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“I would say I like all sorts of pictures on Instagram. I’ve never sent unsolicited harassing messages, ever,” he said.

Kim Fox, a Canadian journalist who is now working in the United States, said she did not know Mr. Clement personally but often noticed that he had liked her pictures on Instagram. Over time, she came to realize that Mr. Clement did the same with some of her friends.

“It became a joke among some of my female colleagues,” she said in an interview. “It seemed kind of weird. … It made me feel really uncomfortable, and others, too.”

Ms. Fox said she tried to “laugh it off” and give Mr. Clement the benefit of the doubt, until the news emerged that he had sent explicit pictures of himself.

“As a woman, you make jokes, you try to find excuses,” she said. “I unfollowed him today, I was like, ‘I want nothing to do with this.’”

Andrea Gunn, an Ottawa-based correspondent for the Halifax Chronicle Herald, also said that Mr. Clement’s behaviour made her feel uncomfortable.

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“Tony Clement liked almost all my Instagram posts from 2014 until I removed him this spring after he came out of [Question Period] and said, ‘Nice to see you in 3D,’” Ms. Gunn said on Twitter.

She added that he had once contacted her via a messaging application around midnight. “It made me uncomfortable, but I ignored it because it didn’t cross any lines,” she added.

Neither Ms. Fox nor Ms. Gunn said that Mr. Clement sent them unsolicited pictures of himself. In his e-mail to The Globe, Mr. Clement said he simply shared a musical passion with Ms. Gunn. “Andrea is a guitarist, as am I. So yes I liked a lot of her pictures,” he said.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said that he did not think Mr. Clement was targeted because of his role on the national-security committee.

“I do not believe that to be the case, but I am not in a position to comment in any way, shape, or form with respect to that,” he told reporters.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized remarks from former senior Conservative aide in the Harper government Rachel Curran. This is a corrected version.
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