Tony Clement talks about his ‘mental health,’ ‘personal crisis, failings’ and political comeback

Mark Clairmont |

PARRY SOUND-MUSKOKA — It’s been a “hairy ride” for Tony Clement.

Not just the four months since his personal life and political career blew up.

But on Monday, when he was driving to Toronto and ran into “five whiteouts north of Barrie,” avoiding the 70-car pileup beyond via an EDR that detoured him off Hwy. 400 at Mapleview Drive and back on at Innisfil Beach Road.

“It was bit of a hairy ride, that’s for sure.”

Now, after some “mental health” days, the local MP who has navigated a lot life’s bumpy roads in his 58 years (as of Jan. 27), most specifically since last November’s sexting scandal took him down and nearly out, is back on the job — fulltime.

Tony Clement met with Suzanne Mammel, left, executive officer with the Hamilton-Halton Home Builders’ Asociation, Nick Carnicelli, president of the Hamilton-Halton Home Builders’ Asociation and Bob Albert, CHBA national office staff member.

Tuesday he met with representatives of the Canadian Labour Council and Ontario Homebuilders Association in his new, little independent MP’s office on Parliament Hill.

On Wednesday (Feb. 27), in a brief, candid phone interview from Ottawa with, in which he was both frank and forthright, he said “it’s been busy for sure” and he’s glad to be back and in the swing of things.

“Yes, I am. I’m here, obviously on the Hill when the House is sitting, and when the House isn’t sitting, well I’ve been in the riding really fulltime.

“I didn’t re-emerge on the Hill until last week, at least for sittings of Parliament.”

He said “I used that time in the riding for my own personal health, mental health. But also keeping up with meetings and advocacy and helping people in the riding. The riding part really hadn’t stopped. Of course, the new part is returning to Parliament Hill” — as an independent member.

So, how’s it going in the riding? What’s the reaction been?

“It’s been really amazing. I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of people contact me and offer me their prayers, and their encouragement and their support.

“I wouldn’t say it’s 100 per cent that way, but it was very, very encouraging to hear from people. They understand that I had a major personal crisis and failing. But they were very pleased to hear that I’m back on the right track and that I’m putting that part of my life behind me.”

Asked if he was getting professional counselling, he didn’t hesitate and said he didn’t mind answering the question.

“No, no, I did have counselling, absolutely,” he said without elaborating.

And how are things on the home front?

“Yeah, bit by bit, we’re working things out, for sure. And, you know, Lynne’s been — you know I love her, she loves me. And we’re working things out.”

And how’s it been on the Hill, the reaction to your return?

“Yeah! It’s been really, really nice, people, MPs and Senators have come up to me all the time and offered me their best. These are Conservative folks, but also Liberals and NDP folks. So it really has been something very special for me and to me that they’ve shown me that encouragement and support.”

How about Hill staff?

“Yeah, yeah. Some staff members I know have come up to me and offered me their encouragement, too, for sure.”

Any cold shoulders?

“People have been really understanding. Look, it’s the same, like everybody comes up to me and says ‘But for the grace of God go any of us.’ And we all have our own personal failings and one way or another. And so, I’m not unique that way. Mine was just public. That’s what, I guess, makes it stand out. But it also gives an opportunity for people to come to me and offer their support.

“I will tell you, I was quite anxious about returning. I had a high degree of anxiety about it. It really has been amazing, for sure.”

Now, what about Clement’s comeback and career as an independent MP sitting in a new House?

Is he going to seek the local P.C. (Progressive Conservative) nomination?

“I’m just taking it day-by-day right now, I don’t have any decision to convey to you right now.

“My first thing was to get better myself — I’ve done that. Second was to work on my family life — I’ve done that. Third was to return to my duties here on the Hill, while continuing my duties in the constituency.

“Though, there will be a time and place for that decision. But I’m just not quite there yet.”

Meantime, Clement says he continues to do his job, without taking any real long-term leave — in part thanks to the Christmas break.

“That’s why I wanted to showcase meeting with the Canadian Labour Congress, as well as the homebuilders, because those are two groups I thought had resinence in the riding. In the sense that they were talking about issues that people in the constituency care about, affordable housing, pharmacare, better protection for pensions.”

As for the future — the immediate and in an election year?

“I think things will become clear as we move along. There’s still got a long time to go before election day (Oct. 21 — seven months, 3 weeks away), so we’ll just see where things stand. Obviously, I’ve got to talk to my family a little bit more, to sort of get a sense of it. I’ve been at it for 13-plus years now in Parry Sound-Muskoka. I’m very proud of that fact. But we’ll see what the future holds.”

Asked about his sexting case — in which last month two un-named people were charged in the Ivory Coast in an extortion investigation in which Clement said he thought he was exchanging explicit videos and photos of himself with a consulting female — Clement said “the RCMP was acting on my behalf — as the victim — so it really has been out of my hands.”

He said: “The arrests were made, so I’m not really part of that. They confiscated their hard drives. They got the evidence they need about their activities amongst a lot of people. Not just me.”

Has the RCMP spoken to Clement?

“I’ve been in constant contact, absolutely,” said Clement. “They consider me a victim. And they’ve been amazing. They’ve really done a good job on this.”

As for the timing of that investigation, Clement said: “I’m not really involved in that. So it’s not up to me how the case proceeds.”

The RCMP told back in January that they are continuing their investigation and haven’t released any more information.

See related story, below, on Clement’s meeting with CLC and CHBA

MP Tony Clement urges affordable housing,

workers’ rights in meeetings with CLC, CBHA

OTTAWA Independent MP Tony Clement met this week with representatives of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA), and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), in his new office on Parliament Hill.

Tony Clement also met with Canadian Labour Congress members on Tuesday.

During two separate meetings on Tuesday, in his return to Parliament Hill, Clement met with home builders and workers from across the country, including his riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka, “to discuss the many challenges met by Canadians today such as housing affordability, a comprehensive pharmacare plan and a greater pension protection for Canadians.”

In a separate interview, Clement told that he met with them “… because those are two groups I thought had resinence in the riding.

“In the sense that they were talking about issues that people in the constituency care about, affordable housing, pharmacare, better protection for pensions.”

He added in the release: “Organizations like the Canadian Home Builders’ Association and the Canadian Labour Congress must be heard to help government make the best decisions to improve the lives of Canadians, including seniors and young workers.

“I have been particularly concerned about housing affordability in Parry Sound-Muskoka.

I encourage CHBA to pursue innovative solutions with the federal, provincial and the municipal governments.

Clement said: “Meeting with these groups proved to be insightful. I encourage the labour representatives and home builders to keep up the good work, as they continue to advocate on behalf of the many families they represent.”

The Canadian Builders’ Association is the voice of Canada’s residential construction industry made up of 9,000 member companies.

The Canadian Labour Congress, for its own part, speaks on behalf of 3.3 million workers across Canada.