Scheer asks Tony Clement to leave Conservative caucus over sexting scandal
Tory MP shared sexually explicit images and video, says he's facing extortion attempt
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has asked longtime MP Tony Clement to leave the Conservative caucus after he shared sexually explicit images and a video with an individual online — a transgression that has resulted in an alleged extortion attempt.
Scheer said Wednesday new evidence has come to light to suggest this incident was not isolated — and that Clement is alleged to have engaged in similar behaviour in the past.
Scheer had said earlier Wednesday that Clement was still a member of his caucus, despite his disappointment with the MP's actions, and that he believed Clement when he said this was an isolated incident.
By mid-afternoon, shortly before question period, new developments had made Scheer's previous position untenable.
"I took him at his word that this was an isolated incident. Since then, 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.
"New information became available today to suggest this was not an isolated incident."
Numerous social media posters have suggested they weren't surprised by Clement's revelation. CBC News spoke with two young women Wednesday who said they and their friends were made uncomfortable by the fact that Clement had 'liked' so many of their social media posts over the years.
Scheer said he was made aware of an RCMP investigation into the alleged extortion last week and then subsequently met with Clement face-to-face on Monday, when he was "brought up to speed about what was going on."
It was then mutually decided, Scheer said, that Clement should resign his justice critic role and positions on a number of Commons committees — including a top secret national security and intelligence committee.
It is Clement's membership on this special committee in particular that raises red flags for high-level security operatives.
Parliamentarians on this committee — MPs and senators alike — are privy to the nation's most guarded secrets as they review the work of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Communications Security Establishment, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canada Border Services Agency.
Scheer said he would leave it to national security agencies to determine if Clement has been compromised as a result of this sexting scandal.
"I will leave it to them. Those are the experts," Scheer said.
Other members of the committee were tight-lipped today about what Clement's sexting dilemma might mean for the reputation of the committee.
Liberal Quebec MP Emmanuel Dubourg, a committee member, said people chosen for a position on the committee must go through the most thorough of security clearances.
"In that context, I can't say much about the situation. I can't say anything more," Dubourg said in French, adding that he was concerned.
David McGuinty, the chair of the committee, directed a request for comment to the committee's director, Rennie Marcoux.
Marcoux said that because the matter is under investigation, there isn't much the committee can say about it.
Marcoux said all members had to obtain a top secret security clearance from the government before being appointed to the committee. They also had to swear an oath of loyalty and secrecy, Marcoux said in a statement to CBC News.
Trudeau has no comment
Sources told CBC News Clement flagged the alleged extortion attempt a few days ago to the Privy Council Office — the branch of the bureaucracy that supports the prime minister and cabinet — and the special national security committee. The precise timeline of events was not immediately clear.
Unlike parliamentary committees that have to report to the House of Commons or the Senate, this independent joint committee of parliamentarians responds directly to the prime minister and/or the executive branch.
Trudeau told reporters Wednesday he had no comment on Clement.
On Tuesday night, Clement sent out a statement saying he shared sexually explicit images and a video of himself with someone he believed was a consenting female. Clement said he had shared the images "over the last three weeks."
"The recipient was, in fact, an individual or party who targeted me for the purpose of financial extortion," he wrote.
Sources told CBC News that the would-be extortionist asked Clement to pay €50,000 ($75,200 Cdn) or risk seeing the images and video released publicly.
"The RCMP are currently investigating the matter to determine the identity of the party responsible for the extortion attempt," Clement said.
Earlier today, Scheer did not answer questions about whether Clement can run under the Conservative banner in 2019.
"I don't have anything further to add to that dynamic, or to anything about … internal caucus matters, but I think we can all agree that this was a very poor decision," he told reporters Wednesday.
When asked if Conservative leadership has warned other Tory MPs against this sort of behaviour, Scheer said he shouldn't have to remind elected officials to refrain from obviously inappropriate 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, but obviously this is a terrible decision."
The Parry Sound-Muskoka MP was first elected to the House of Commons in 2006 after making the jump from provincial politics. Stephen Harper picked Clement for a number of senior cabinet positions in his government, including president of the Treasury Board and minister of industry.
The U.K.-born Clement was elected to Queen's Park in 1995. He held a number of cabinet portfolios under former Ontario premier Mike Harris, including minister of health, before the ruling PCs were voted out of office in 2003.
In 2004, he placed third in the leadership race, ultimately placing behind Harper and auto parts mogul Belinda Stronach.
He dropped out of the 2016 leadership race after three short months, having failed to raise enough money to continue his efforts.
With files from the CBC's Catherine Cullen