Tony Clement is back in Parliament, though sitting in a very different seat than when he left in November.
Clement said in an interview with MyMuskokaNow.com that he is glad to be back in Ottawa after attempted blackmail saw him lose his seat in the Progressive Conservative caucus.
Clement has been off the grid since the news broke about the extortion attempt in November. After initially receiving support from party leader Andrew Scheer, he was forced to resign from the PCs.
“Look, I made a big mistake and people know that,” he says of his party exit. “People say everybody has made a mistake or two in their lives and not too many people can throw stones in glass houses.”
He contends he very much continues to have a role within the house, where he sits with three other independents including Raj Grewal (Brampton East), Erin Weir (Regina-Lewvan) and Darshan Singh Kang (Calgary Skyview).
“I sit in between a former Liberal MP and a former NDP MP, so that’s a new experience for me for sure,” he says with a chuckle. “But certainly I’m trying to make as many votes as possible and participate in the debates. That will occur over time as well. From that perspective, you’re still a parliamentarian. I’m still the member of Parliament for Parry Sound-Muskoka.”
He may have to wait a bit to have his moment in front of the cameras in question period. His first opportunity is not until April. He will also have to wait for his number to come up in a lottery if he has any private member’s bill he wishes to present.
Overall he is glad to have the negative business behind him in terms of the blackmail attempt. Now he is all about the business of parliament. He is even pleased with his new seating location.
“As Scott Brison said on his exit ‘there is never a bad seat in the House of Commons’,” says Clement. “They’re all good seats there because we are all honoured to be there and I certainly feel honoured to continue to represent the people of Parry Sound-Muskoka.”
While he was away from Ottawa, he got a lot of face-to-face time with constituents and says overall people have been very welcoming.
“Since November of last year I spent a lot of time in the constituency,” he says. “I had a lot of constituency meetings. Some people who needed help with federal government departments for instance. Other times it’s been more community-related. I talked to a lot of applicants for the Canada Summer Jobs Program locally. At least a half a dozen of different organizations or businesses want the Canada Summer Job grant.
“And I talked to all of the mayors in Muskoka and in Parry Sound and kept in touch with them and their councils about what their needs are. So I went to a lot of business association events, Chamber of Commerce events and so on, so yeah, it’s been business as usual. People have been very, very welcoming of me at those events as well.”
When pressed about his election plans, he says it is too early to make that call.
“Right now I am just taking it day-by-day,” he contends. “I haven’t made any firm decisions and just happy to be back not only locally but also here in the House of Commons, so it’s really a day-by-day issue at this point.”