Ontario MP Tony Clement has revealed further instances of inappropriate interactions with women, stating he has known since the summer that “acts of infidelity" had exposed him to blackmail.
The new revelations showed that his initial disclosure of an extortion attempt earlier in the week was incomplete, leading Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to face another round of embarrassing questions about his former justice critic, who resigned from the Conservative caucus on Wednesday.
Mr. Clement, 57, is a married father of three who has represented the riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka since 2006. In a letter to his constituents on Thursday, he revealed that he had gone to the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) “last summer” after learning that someone was seeking information on his dealings with women.
“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,” Mr. Clement said. “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.”
Despite that complaint with the OPP, Mr. Clement’s pattern of inappropriate behaviour continued. On Tuesday, Mr. Clement said he had sent explicit images and video of himself on the internet over the past three weeks, only to be asked for payment to stop their public release. He said he referred the matter to the RCMP for investigation.
The revelations about Mr. Clement’s sexual misconduct have sent shock waves through the Conservative Party and overshadowed its policy initiatives. On Thursday, Mr. Scheer announced his party’s new stand on gang violence, but the subsequent news conference was dominated by questions about Mr. Clement’s behaviour.
Mr. Scheer had a first meeting with Mr. Clement on Monday about the issue that led to the complaint to the RCMP, but Mr. Clement did not divulge the other problems flowing from his behaviour.
“When Tony and I spoke about what happened more recently, it was presented to me as an isolated event, so I was not expecting there to be other types of events,” Mr. Scheer said. “This was a shock to me when I was made aware of the situation.”
The fact that Mr. Clement was exposed to extortion has raised questions about his presence up until this week on a committee of MPs and senators that oversees the activities of Canada’s national-security agencies. The committee, which operates behind closed doors, requires its members to obtain a security clearance given their access to classified information – but Mr. Clement only resigned on Wednesday.
Pierre-Yves Bourduas, a security expert and former RCMP deputy commissioner, said Mr. Clement should have acted sooner. “If someone is in a position of vulnerability, they should recuse themselves until the matter is dealt with,” he said in an interview.
In his letter on Thursday, Mr. Clement said he believes the most recent extortion attempt was the work of “foreign actors” who targeted him for money.
“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,” he said.
Mr. Clement also apologized specifically to his wife.
After his initial announcement on Tuesday, Mr. Clement was allowed to stay in the Conservative caucus. However, the situation changed on Wednesday afternoon after many women complained publicly about his online interactions with them.
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 Mr. Clement did the same with some of her friends. “It made me feel really uncomfortable and others, too," she said.
Andrea Gunn, an Ottawa-based correspondent for the Halifax Chronicle Herald, also criticized Mr. Clement over the fact he 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.
In an e-mail to The Globe and Mail on Wednesday, Mr. Clement acknowledged numerous interactions on social media over the years, but denied any harassing behaviour. “I would say I like all sorts of pictures on Instagram. I’ve never sent unsolicited harassing messages, ever,” he said.