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Scheer keeps Clement in caucus for now

The Canadian Press logoThe Canadian Press 2018-11-07 Mia Rabson

OTTAWA - Tony Clement remains a member of the federal Conservative caucus despite his admission he sent sexually explicit photos and a video to someone online, party leader Andrew Scheer says.

Clement sent out a statement Tuesday evening saying he'd shared the images and video in the last three weeks and then the recipient tried to extort him, threatening to release the photos if he didn't pay.

Scheer said Clement told him about the situation last week while Scheer was travelling and the two were not able to sit down face to face until Monday. After that meeting they agreed it was best for the caucus and the party for Clement to relinquish his role as justice critic and resign from all the committees he sits on.

That includes the national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians, a position that had given him top security clearance and entitled him to see some of Canada's most important secrets.

"I think we can all agree that this was a very poor decision for Tony to have made," said Scheer.

He said the RCMP and security agents connected to the Privy Council Office are investigating whether national security was compromised or if Clement was targeted because of his role on the committee.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale wouldn't comment on the specifics of Clement's situation and said he didn't know whether Clement's place on the committee had anything to do with the alleged extortion attempt.

Goodale said as a federal cabinet minister, however, which Clement was from 2006 until 2015, he'd have been warned about the threats he might face because of his position and the various tactics people might use to compromise Canada's national security.

Clement said the RCMP are also investigating the extortion attempt. In his statement he apologized for his behaviour, acknowledge he exercised "poor judgement" and said he is sorry for causing his family "needless pain and humiliation."

Clement is married to Toronto lawyer and author Lynne Golding. They have three grown children. Clement said he is seeking "treatment," though he didn't say what kind.

For now Clement will remain a Conservative MP and Scheer had no comment about whether Clement would run again for the party in the 2019 election.

"Right now, we are dealing with a situation whereby all the information we have was between Tony and someone who was consenting to the communication," Scheer said. "That doesn't make it not a terrible lapse in judgment but that's the situation that we are dealing with."

Scheer said there is a code of conduct in place for his MPs and that they are told they need to follow it but suggested a rule shouldn't have been needed for this.

"I don't know that too many people who have to be told not to share explicit images and videos with people that you haven't met but obviously this is a terrible decision, extremely poor judgment."

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer makes his way to speak to media on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick © Provided by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer makes his way to speak to media on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Scheer said he is taking Clement at his word that he sent the photos to someone he thought had consented, and that this was the first time he'd done such a thing.

The Conservative caucus meeting went on as usual Wednesday, though all but one MP found a way to get into the meeting room without walking through public spaces.

Lisa Raitt wouldn't comment on the situation as she walked through the rotunda in Centre Block on her way to the meeting.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he had no comment about the Clement situation.

Clement is a well-known MP who has been part of the Ontario and federal conservative parties for several decades. He was an Ontario cabinet minister before moving to the federal realm. He has been an MP since 2006, and was a cabinet minister in the portfolios of health, industry and treasury board for nearly a decade, and has been one of the most prominent members of the Conservative party in its stint in opposition since 2015.

Clement ran twice for the federal leadership, losing in 2004 and withdrawing from the 2017 contest early to support Maxime Bernier.

In addition to his role on the national security and intelligence committee, Clement was the vice-chair of the justice committee.

Raitt has taken over for him as the Conservative justice critic for the time being.

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