OTTAWA – Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer shouldn’t have taken Tony Clement at his word that he’d only been involved in one improper online exchange, a prominent conservative political consultant says.
Alise Mills, a communications strategist and senior associate with the firm Sussex Strategy, said Friday that it made her very angry to think it was ever believable Clement hadn’t crossed the line more than once, either online or in person. People in the Conservative party knew that Clement would frequent women’s social-media pages far more than other politicians, registering “likes” of their photos and sending them messages, she said.
“Like, how stupid do you think we are?” Mills said in an interview with The Canadian Press, adding that the Conservatives should have kicked Clement out of the Tory caucus right away and confiscated his mobile phone.
Tuesday night, Clement resigned as the party’s justice critic and from his committee roles after revealing that he’d shared sexually explicit images with someone who wanted to extort him.
He was not, at first, asked to leave caucus by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. Scheer said he was taking Clement at his word that the “terrible lapse in judgment” had been a one-time thing between two consenting adults — and that Clement was ultimately the victim.
But later Wednesday, Scheer said new information had become available to suggest the allegations were not isolated.
Mills told a radio show airing on Sirius XM Friday that she ended her own friendship with the former Conservative MP and cabinet minister after she felt his behaviour toward her crossed a line but she did not detail specifics.
Clement’s lawyer Joseph Neuberger denied any inappropriate behaviour.
“We are puzzled as to what Ms. Mills alleges as inappropriate as all contact between Mr. Clement and Ms. Mills has been nothing other than professional,” Neuberger said in an email.
Clement issued an open letter to his Ontario constituents on Thursday in which he apologized to anyone who felt he crossed “online boundaries” in a way that made them feel uncomfortable, even without his knowledge.
Mills also said that problems on Parliament Hill go far beyond one politician.
“There are many others on the Hill,” she told the show. “It doesn’t matter if they’re NDP, Liberal or Conservative.”
Women on Parliament Hill endure systemic and targeted harassment from politicians of all stripes, she said, and share a feeling that their parties have broken their trust.
“To know it is not just the outside (where) you have to worry about the wolves, but the inside? And they’re enabling it?” she said. “There’s nothing more heartbreaking … It makes you ask yourself, ‘Am I crazy?’.”
Mills called on the parties to screen their would-be candidates more carefully.
“They have to understand what types of personalities are attracted to politics and public life,” she said. “This world attracts some of the worst and we need to be on guard … the people who are there are supposed to be some of Canada’s finest.”
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