Politics

Tony Clement says he plans to return to Parliament this month

Sidelined by a sexting scandal and facing a future as an independent MP, Tony Clement says he'll still be back on Parliament Hill in January.

Several MPs are starting 2019 in uncomfortable circumstances

Former Conservative MP Tony Clement has not been seen in the House of Commons since admitting to "inappropriate exchanges" and "acts of infidelity." (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Tony Clement has been absent from the House of Commons since early November after admitting to sharing explicit photos and videos of himself online — but he tells CBC News he'll be back when Parliament resumes later this month.

"I plan to be in Ottawa," he said in a brief e-mail exchange.

The return will mark a dramatic change of circumstances for the Parry Sound-Muskok​a MP, who has long been a fixture in Canada's conservative movement.

Clement was removed from Conservative caucus in November over a sexting scandal. Clement himself later revealed that he had shared sexually explicit images and video with multiple women. He also reported that someone had attempted to bribe one woman to disclose "intimate and personal information" and that he had been targeted for extortion by someone demanding money to keep the images from being released.

He returns now to the much lonelier role of the independent MP. He will no longer participate in committees — including the high-profile national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians. The sexting incident fuelled questions about whether Clement was specifically targeted because of his role on the national security and intelligence committee.

The RCMP, meanwhile, tell CBC News that their investigation into the extortion allegation is still underway.

In an online posting in November, Clement told his Parry Sound, Ont. constituents he was committed to "getting the professional help I need to continue serving my family, my community and my country in whatever ways I can."

He did not respond to questions from CBC News about how he was doing and what his expectations are for his return to Parliament Hill.

Grewal's future uncertain

​Clement isn't the only MP starting the new year under a cloud. A recent House of Commons seating plan has him sharing a desk with former Liberal MP Raj Grewal, who left his party's caucus after his multi-million dollar gambling problem came to light.

The Canadian Press has reported that news of Grewal's gambling surfaced during police wiretaps investigating organized crime. Grewal has said he borrowed money from family and friends and that "[t]his has nothing to do at all with anything sinister except to feed my own addiction."

Grewal initially said he would resign his seat, but days later said he would instead reflect on his political future.

In a Nov. 30 statement posted on Facebook, the Brampton East MP said he would make a decision before Parliament resumes. He did not respond to recent questions from CBC News about his plans.

Di Iorio still an MP — for now

One MP who is not expected on Parliament Hill when the House resumes sitting is Liberal Nicola Di Iorio.

His situation is an extraordinary one. He announced in April that he would resign "for family reasons," then said in September he was still reflecting on his political future. Di Iorio was absent from Parliament Hill for months — offering the unprecedented explanation that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had assigned him responsibilities requiring him to be away.

In an online posting late last year, he said his final day as an MP would be Jan 22, 2019. That timeline allows Trudeau to avoid calling a byelection and to leave Di Iorio's Montreal-area seat of Saint-Léonard-Saint-Michel vacant for the maximum time allowed — nine months before the Oct. 21 general election.

There are four other vacancies in the House of Commons right now. Trudeau is expected to soon call byelections in at least three of them — Outremont, York–Simcoe and Burnaby South. NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson also recently vacated her federal seat Nanaimo-Ladysmith to run for a provincial seat. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, meanwhile, is betting on Burnaby South to give him his own seat in the House of Commons.

Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer issued a press release today demanding that the government immediately call byelections in all of the vacant seats.

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