Listen Up! I am not among those who believe that Tony Clement should resign

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Hugh Mackenzie
Huntsville Doppler

A Little Kindness Please … 

I have had more than a few people ask me over the past few days if I intended to write about Tony Clement this week. The answer to many of them was no. It was too painful, too personal and too controversial. But I have reconsidered. After all, at least in Parry Sound-Muskoka, it is the elephant in the room. It is hard to talk about anything else and yet for me, it is hard to talk about it at all.

Let me start by telling you what I know about Tony Clement. I consider him a friend, but not a close friend in the sense that we do not see each other socially. I believe we have been to dinner with Tony and his wife once and there was a time we attended an Open House at his home in Port Sydney. Lynne and I have known each other since we were both much younger. I have also known her parents for most of my life and they are all salt-of-the-earth people.

I first knew Tony Clement through politics. His step-father was a popular Minister in the Davis Government and long before Tony was a member of the Ontario legislature, he was active in the Conservative Party. I would often run into him at various events. His politics were a little too far to the right for me, but he was a tireless worker and organizer for the Tory Party. When elected to the Legislature from Brampton in 1995, he was a hard-working member and he served as a Cabinet Minister in the Governments of Mike Harris and Erie Eves. As Minister of Health in the Eves Government, Tony Clement was widely and internationally credited with containing a SARS epidemic, which had the potential of endangering thousands of lives in Ontario and elsewhere.

When Tony Clement ran for the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, I supported Ernie Eves and when he sought the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, I supported Hugh Segal. Consequently, although we were both affiliated with the same political party, he had no reason to feel warm and fuzzy toward me. And yet, some years later when I was Mayor of Huntsville and he was our Member of Parliament, he could not have been more helpful. I have never known a politician who responded so quickly and so effectively when called upon for assistance.

Tony Clement has been a public servant for more than 23 years. During that time, he has been recognized as a senior statesman for Canada and he has represented his Country, this Province and indeed our Riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka with distinction. One cannot take that away from him. I respect Tony Clement for what he has done for Canada and yes, I still respect him today.

To be clear, I do not respect his actions in recent months. I do not condone them and I do not understand them. I wanted to yell at him for being so stupid. What I do believe however, is that whatever has happened, whatever has motivated him in respect to his behaviour, it is separate and distinct from the person Tony Clement really is. It is simply not the substance of the man. He could not have fooled so many people at so many levels of public and private life, for so long, if this were the real Tony Clement.

Clearly, Tony Clement is in a very dark place right now. Often, when people do something that is completely out of character, it can be a sign of serious mental stress. We do not know what pressure he has been under or what demons he has recently faced, or what, if anything, has affected his mental health. We do know he has taken full responsibility for his actions and he is seeking the help he needs. We also know that he will pay a heavy price for his behaviour and the road ahead will not be easy for him or his family. Certainly, they will soon find out who their friends really are!

I am not among those who believe that Tony Clement should resign as our Member of Parliament at this time. It makes little sense to spend many thousands of dollars less than a year before a general election to replace a person who has provided exemplary service to Parry Sound-Muskoka and who continues to do so. Next year will take care of itself, one way or another, but for now, if he is able, Tony should carry on.

In the meantime, remembering that all of us have fallen along the way, in one manner or another, I can only wish Tony well as he embarks on his path to recovery. Sadly, there will be those who will cross the street when they see him coming. I for one will not.

No doubt, some wag will ask me if I would take the same position as I have with Tony Clement if he had not been a Conservative. The answer is yes. I actually did, and not that long ago. Some people have short memories.

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43 Comments

  1. With all due respect, sir, unless you have been on the receiving end of unsolicited and unwanted sexual attention that makes you feel uncomfortable, nervous to go to work, look a person in the eye, wonder if you are wearing the wrong thing, and scared to say that you are being made to feel to this way because you will be the person punished if you come forward….unless you you know what this feels like, you don’t get to express an opinion on whether Mr. Clement is fit to lead his constituents (half of whom are women). Your opinion on Mr. Clement, given your position in our society as a senior, white, male of privilege, is of no surprise to anyone. But, in this time of the #metoo movement, it’s time to stop publishing it (shame on you, Doppler) in honour of all of the women who, for centuries before now, kept quiet.

    • Yes. At what time do we delegate these white male perspectives to the bin? Tony had his say. I want to hear from the women in our community who’ve spoken about his abuses of power, his creepy behaviour, and the analyses behind those actions. Hugh’s input is familiar and typical. What else does Doppler have?

    • Tia:

      I have as many women of my senior generation, experienced sexual misconduct including that from a family member. Hugh Mackenzie in a democracy is entitled to his opinion, just as you are. He has given you the opportunity to express yours, just as you have given to him.

      I lived in the riding of Parry Sound Muskoka during the era of Tony Clement as a provincial politician and I voted for him when he ran for Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. I was involved in the riding association as well.

      What we have here, as I see it, is an incredible opportunity to bring dialogue about the boundaries of sexual inappropriateness without judgement. Everyone should have an opportunity to participate.

      Tia: start by publishing the resources available to women, through the Ministry of Labour, get engaged with people who can help women, and men too, to ensure that misconduct such as that of Mr. Clement’s has consequences. You need to take your anger and convert it into something that will ensure change for the better, and I believe that you can.

      Hugh, help your friend. Do not enable him, please. He deserves that much from a friend.

      Mr. Clement, your conduct was unacceptable, and apologies are not enough. You are expected to prove by your actions, what your apologies mean. You are held to a higher standard because you represent not only those in your riding, but across Canada. Now you have to be part of the solution, not the problem as you have never before.

      I agree with Hugh, who empowered me many years ago, that to resign is inappropriate. I do expect you Mr. Clement, to respect the parliamentary system and be present when Parliament is in session.

      Thank you Hugh for the opportunity to express my opinion. Thank you Tia, as well.

    • I actually HAVE been “…on the receiving end of unsolicited and unwanted sexual attention” by a former boss (a married man, by the way). In comparing notes with a young co-worker, I discovered that she was receiving the same kind of attention. I actually suffered a relatively minor assault by the manager in question. In hindsight, I should have smacked him silly but was too shocked to do so at the time. Instead I decided to quit (after getting another job) before the harassment got any worse (went to a firm managed by a couple of women). So, if that is your criteria for expressing an opinion on the matter, I think I am qualified to say something. However, I disagree that Hugh should not express an opinion on the matter just because he has never experienced this type of abuse.

      Like you, I also have to disagree with Hugh that practical considerations (“Tony Clement has done a lot for Perry Sound-Muskoka”) should rule the discussion or what we should ultimately judge on the matter. There are higher standards–that of the character of our leaders–that should be our greater concern in the drive for “good government”. The whole thing is stupid on Clement’s part and very sad–especially for his family. But more than that, his actions reflect very badly on his character and engender the possibility for anonymous parties to be able to blackmail him, as a highly-placed government official. I don’t know about you but I consider that to be somewhat frightening.

      Men have apparently always been led by their gonads (think the stupid and destructive actions of King David–in the Bathsheba affair–for proof–or even, arguably, Adam and Eve). Even though men know that what they are doing is wrong, if they repeatedly get away with it, they seem to nurture the stupid fantasy that they will not eventually pay the consequences for their dishonorable and disrespectful actions. As women, we need to be grateful that we live in a more enlightened age and place. Our culture does not accept this kind of behaviour as even approaching the moral standard. Most Canadians will never think of him as the “honorable” anyone ever again.

      However, I can’t help but reflect on the moral standards of radical feminist women who would defend abortion-on-demand right up until the due date. Canada has NO laws regulating abortion. Which means that infanticide could legally be performed in this country. While most women who receive abortions do so at early dates, there is no legal ground to stop anyone from practicing this type of infanticide and most radical feminists DEFEND THIS PRACTICE in their clamouring for “completely unrestricted abortion rights.” Before radical feminists attack “white male privilege” (are you saying that men of other races don’t sexually harass women??) I think they should clean up their own house. While I would advise men to stop being led by their gonads, I would advise those women to stop THINKING with their gall bladders.

  2. Hugh an excellent commentary Tony has put himself out there for all of the people of Ontario over the years and now is the time to give some space before we convict him. Let him and his family deal with this sad situation and get the help needed going forward for all involved

  3. Hugh, what does Clement need to recover from? What is his illness? Male entitlement and the disease of misogyny? This is such a boring reply. “I never saw him sexually exploit or harass anyone so this must be out of character.” Maybe what he revealed to you was the mask, and his true character has been revealed. Also, someone can be good at their job and still be guilty of serial sexual harassment. These two things are not mutually exclusive and forgiving him one in favour of acknowledging the other does a huge disservice to victims. I suspect there are women who will come forward with evidence of harassment against Clement. I don’t think we’ve arrived at the truth of this matter. He had his shot – he blew it. Forgive me the crassness but I’m tired of this.

  4. John A Groves MLT (retired) on

    Just a slight correction regarding the SARS epidemic. It was the late Dr Donald Lowe (and his team) that we’re the heroes. Just my opinion

  5. I do agree that up until this point; he has worked hard and done a great job. I see him everywhere. He even attends our small BIA annual meetings! I as well would acknowledge him on the street. I wish him well but…. he’s gotta go!

    I don’t think it really matters if he is the greatest guy ever. He exercised extremely poor judgment. This makes him unfit and too risky to hold his position in public office.

    For us to give him a pass and “hope” it never happens again is very naive and irresponsible. There must be consequences for unacceptable actions.

  6. Greg Reuvekamp on

    Mr. MacKenzie, I think you would agree that Mr. Clement cannot serve this riding as well sitting as an independent, and the chances of him being returned to the Conservative caucus remain slim to none. For the good of this riding he needs to resign. I see it as a likelihood that Maxime Bernier’s “People’s party” will find someone here to run under their banner next Oct 2019. If Clement remains, then that will be a three way split of the right of center vote here, which could very well mean victory for the Liberal or NDP candidate. If Mr Clement truly wants to help this riding, then he needs to put aside his ego and ambitions and step aside for someone new to represent us.
    P.S. imagine if Mr Clement ends up being Bernier’s candidate here? Mad Max might well be desperate enough to want him.

  7. It is unfortunate that the “me too’ movement has produced a number of people who are ready to condemn without thinking. Hugh is not supporting what Tony has done, he is merely making a logical argument to not rush into forcing Tony to resign, given the upcoming Federal election. Nobody expects Tony to be elected, so why incur the expense of a by-election to replace Tony for a few months. I am confident Tony will continue to do the job to which he was elected.

    • Yes, I believe the “Me Too” movement is a radical out of control group that seriously diminishes valid cases of criminality. People, who could often reflect inwardly, are so ready to condemn some and yet overlook or accept unproven, biased data on others. This is so true, especially in politics today.

  8. Karen Wehrstein on

    Just one point of correction, Hugh, as you wrote “To be clear, I do not respect his actions *in recent months*… We do not know what pressure he has been under or what demons he has *recently* faced, or what, if anything, has affected his mental health”.
    .
    The reports from women go back *years*, not months. They are not recent.

    E.g.: https://globalnews.ca/news/4646287/tony-clement-instagram-women/ Three women are interviewed, saying Clement was acting inappropriately two years, two years and 3-4 years ago respectively.
    .
    Also – https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-conservative-leader-says-tony-clement-had-terrible-lapse-of-judgement/ – since 2014, so at least four years.
    .
    One more – https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2018/11/08/tony-clement-sexting-instagram_a_23583558/ – since 2014, so at least four years.
    .
    You’re entitled to your opinions, but please be straight with your readers on the facts.

  9. When the news broke of Clement’s sexting scandal I was far from surprised.

    For years I have had young women in Muskoka, and as far as Toronto and Ottawa, tell me that Clement was liking their photos and following/adding them on social media.

    I know of girls as young as 14 who have received follows and likes from Clement at 2 in the morning and you cannot say that he was just ‘being social media savvy’ or friendly like many of the comments have suggested.

    It’s disappointing to see comments saying that Clement deserves a second chance after his mistake. Especially because it was made very clear over the last few days that this was not an isolated incident.

    While I understand that we live in the modern world and social media is commonly used for communication, Clement is in a position of power and his interactions on social media were completely inappropriate.

    Claire McWatt, one of the women who came forward on Twitter, previously held the role of Chair of the Youth Cabinet when Clement messaged her, therefore supporting that he also made women in his profession feel uncomfortable. (https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/political-staffer-says-clement-made-her-feel-uncomfortable-with-late-night-messages-1.4171547)

    I also believe that everyone who says that he is entitled to a private life is completely missing the point.

    An adult who works in parliament should understand boundaries and know that sending out videos of your penis is not okay.

    Another woman who came forward, but is remaining anonymous, stated: “He sent me sexual messages, pictures/videos. Flirting with me. Told me he missed me, told me how amazing I was”.

    The woman also said that he asked her many times to go out for coffee and to come over to his house but told her their conversations needed to remain secret (https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2018/11/08/tony-clement-sexting-instagram_a_23583558/)

    Many people are also blaming the women involved for either 1. Having ‘provocative’ photos on their Instagram, thus turning this into the tale as old as time “she asked for it”. Or 2. Slut shaming the woman involved in the sexting incident. Last time I checked, she wasn’t the married father who is paid to represent us as an MP. He is.

    The hypocrisy is what stood out to me most when first reading about the incident.

    As someone who was in support of scrapping the updated sex-ed curriculum and for years has presented himself as a conservative family man, is this really okay with you? Clement is not an acceptable leader and we can do better.

    While many people have a love for Tony and what he has done for Parry Sound-Muskoka, people in positions of power are held to a higher moral standard.

    Although there are not yet any claims of persistent harassment or assault, Clement’s behaviour is akin to the many politicians, movie producers and celebrities who believe they can act however they please and women will remain silent. Why else would Clement send sexually explicit photos and videos without thinking there would be repercussions?

    We need to do better as a society, and hold people accountable for their actions, including Clement, who should no longer be entitled to his position as an MP. The hands of our community should not be left in the hands of someone with such a lack of judgement and self-awareness.

    • Sydney, everything that you said was even-handed and fairly expressed. When an MP is asked to step down by the leader of his party, it is not a multiple-choice question: One steps down and begins to mend the myriad of fences (of respect), which he has thoughtlessly destroyed. He shouldn’t want to stay; he shouldn’t even want to sit as an independent MP. He is not the man who some of you thought you were electing.
      .
      Objectifying women was NEVER appropriate; but it is no longer a dirty, little secret. Strong women everywhere are asserting their right to be treated respectfully. I couldn’t be prouder of the whistle-blower who “outed” Mr. Clement; and I couldn’t feel sorrier for his wife and family.

    • Very well said…..The inability to separate personal and professional activities will always overflow, one into the other, and when professional decisions from Mr. Clement’s office can have an effect on so many people, this is just not acceptable. Seek the help you need, make peace with your family and those you feel you have let down, but please remove yourself from public office. Both positive AND negative history will be a part of your contribution to Muskoka – whichever fades first remains to be seen.

  10. Mary-Lynn Bastian on

    I agree with Hugh in many respects but I do believe he should resign, Not in disgrace, shame or punishment although he must be feeling that right now. He should be free to heal from a very catastrophic event in his life that requires rest and time for reflection. The work he needs to do now can not be done in the public eye. It is the long and painful journey of being human and imperfect.

  11. Angela Dunnett on

    I wish our riding to remain Conservative. I do not want an independent representative. Tony has done an excellent job for sure. I do not believe he could win the next election. We need a conservative in that position that can benefit our riding with having a conservative provincial government in power.
    I thank Tony for his long standing hard work for his constituents but for the benefit of the Conservative party. He needs to be replaced.

    • He shouldn’t resign because he has disgraced the Conservative Party, he should resign because he has behaved disgracefully, period. How can anyone in politics be so stupid.

  12. I would like to direct interested persons to ourcommons.ca, to look at how Honorable Tony voted on certain bills in our best interests. See how he voted on postal banking, homelessness and indigenous rights, tax avoidance in Barbados.
    Then decide if he’s worked hard for Muskoka.

  13. Whatever happens, please can we make sure that Doug Ford doesn’t try to jump up to a Federal position! He has a cottage in Port Sydney and might use this to qualify to run. One Trump on the planet is quite enough

  14. Thank you Hugh. I think this is one of your best columns. I too have great respect for Tony. Yes, he has obviously made a serious error in judgement, but in my view he is one of the best representatives Muskoka/Parry sound has ever had. The me/too movement was needed, but in many cases I think it has gone far beyond its boundaries.

  15. I was totally shocked to hear the news about Tony Clement on Twitter. You never really know people even if he is at every event we attend in Muskoka. The ironic part is that he is going to undertake treatment. Sorry but there is no treatment for creepiness. The major faux pas is judgement. He is a public figure and every public figure is under attack. It just caught up with him. He is totally done and the next election will prove it and Tony will move on to something else. Maybe it might be time to move away from the two main parties and their hopeless history and bring the Greens in to protect Muskoka to balance the environment with the economy. Without our beloved environment we will have no economy.

  16. Let me be clear, I have never voted Conservative and I never will, but I have accepted the fact that I live in a Conservative part of the country and don’t complain too much. I have been happy with Tony’s representation of my riding up to now, but I will not put up with being represented to a body responsible for making laws and ruling this country by someone who has behaved this way. I don’t care how good they are at their job. It’s unconscionable. Please leave, you offend every woman in your riding by staying.

  17. Well I also think Mr Clement should step down , as far as I am concerned what he has been reported as doing is an abuse of power and it disgusts me. Also whatever respect he had from me is now gone, and I don’t much care which way he has voted on things, or how much he has done for the area. Well said Sydney Allen.

  18. Enough about Tony Clement. The man made a serious mistake. We all make mistakes of one degree or another during our lifetime.
    If it had been anyone else or someone of another sex would so much have been said?
    Without Prejudice!

  19. So, Mr Clement has represented his riding well. Isn’t that what he was elected to do?
    His behaviour is despicable and he must go.

  20. Thank you, Hugh for expressing so very well your thoughts regarding Tony Clement which reflect my thinking as well. Tony Clement has consistently proven his loyalty to Canada and has worked tirelessly for all of the Canadian people not just his constituents. The high-level appointments that he has held reflect the political respect of his colleagues. Unlike many politicians today he has always been willing to stand and fight for our rights.

    Your reaction to what has occurred describes clearly what I would think most of us feel. Rather than focus on these actions for which he has taken full ownership and accountability, let us reflect on the many positives such as the dedication he has shown in fighting for the country we are clearly losing and which is under increasing risk as Justin Trudeau ratchets up his Globalist UN directed agenda.

    I support Tony carrying ON as MP for Parry Sound Muskoka. We will not find a more committed representative.

  21. Dear Tony;
    Hopefully you will still be reading this opinion column at this point. From the ones who think it’s okay to judge others, they may call you names, and tell you how this or that you were, but I know you through my business dealings here in Huntsville. You were the best at sorting through the levels of government red tape and for that I am indebted.

    As for what you’ve done, well that’s your business and nobody else’s. You know who you’ve hurt and no one needs to tell you that. You’ve told your constituents and your Government, let them sort it out.
    People will paint bad scenarios about you, but, hey, none of their business! Let them grumble and groan. You did a lot of good stuff in your life, hold on to that while you wade through the next chapter. Keep your head up! and let the rest of your life play out as it will.

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