Clement has served as an Ontario cabinet minister, including as Minister of Health and Long-Term Care under premiers Mike Harris and Ernie Eves and President of the Treasury Board under Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Moving to federal politics, he was a candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada after its formation from the merger of the Progressive Conservative and Canadian Alliance parties in 2003. He lost to Stephen Harper. Clement won the seat of Parry Sound—Muskoka in the 2006 federal election, defeating incumbent Liberal cabinet minister Andy Mitchell. The Conservatives formed government in that election and Clement was appointed Minister of Health and Minister for FedNor. He was re-elected despite the Conservative defeat in the 2015 election. On July 12, 2016, Clement announced his second bid for the leadership of the Conservative Party but withdrew on October 13, 2016.
Clement was born Tony Peter Panayi in Manchester, England, the son of Carol Ann (née Drapkin) and Peter Panayi. His father was a Greek Cypriot and his mother was Jewish (part of her family had immigrated from Aleppo, Syria). He emigrated to Canada in childhood with his parents when he was four years old. His parents divorced and his mother married Ontario politician John Clement, who adopted Tony.
As a student at the University of Toronto, he was elected twice, both as an undergraduate and as a law student, to the university's Governing Council. He was also president of the campus Progressive Conservatives. He first attracted the attention of the media in 1986 when he created a new society to invite the Ambassador of South Africa, Glenn Babb after the International Law Society had withdrawn an invitation, deeming it too controversial because of the issue of apartheid. Clement argued in favour of inviting Babb on the grounds of free speech. An attempt by four law professors for a court injunction barring "any representative of the Republic of South Africa to expound, explain or otherwise to solicit public support for his Government's policy of apartheid" was rejected by the court.
A graduate of the University of Toronto, Clement completed degrees in political science in 1983 and law in 1986. He was called to the Ontario Bar in 1988.
Clement is married to Lynne Golding, a partner and Chair of the Health Law Practice at the international law firm, Fasken Martineau DuMoulin.
Clement became president of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario in 1990 and was a close ally of then-party leader Mike Harris. He ran, unsuccessfully, for Metro Toronto Council in 1994, losing to future mayor David Miller in the ward of Parkdale-High Park. He served as Harris' Assistant Principal Secretary from 1992 to 1995 and played a leading role in drafting policy directives for the Common Sense Revolution.
Clement was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in the provincial election of 1995, defeating incumbent Liberal Bob Callahan by over 6,000 votes in the riding of Brampton South. After serving as a Parliamentary Assistant for two years, he was appointed Minister of Transportation on October 10, 1997. He also represented the Progressive Conservative government on a variety of televised discussion panels, gaining the reputation of a rising star in the party.
Clement was returned in the provincial election of 1999 in the new riding of Brampton West—Mississauga, defeating Liberal candidate Vic Dhillon by over 8,000 votes. He was promoted to Minister of the Environment on June 17, 1999, and served in this capacity until May 3, 2000. In this role, he implemented the program known as Ontario's Drive Clean, which mandated periodic emissions tests on vehicles in southern Ontario.
Clement was appointed Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing on October 25, 1999, and held this position until February 8, 2001.
On February 8, 2001, Clement was appointed Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. He initiated primary care reform, oversaw the implementation of Telehealth Ontario (a toll-free health information line staffed by registered nurses) and expanded Ontario's hospitals system. Clement also entered into a public-private partnership for a hospital redevelopment in Brampton.
Clement ran for leadership in the 2002 Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leadership election and finished third on the first ballot. Clement then placed his support behind victorious candidate Ernie Eves on the second ballot. When Eves became Premier, he kept Clement in the Health portfolio.
Clement was especially prominent when Toronto suffered an outbreak of SARS in the summer of 2003, travelling to Geneva in a successful bid to urge the World Health Organization to lift a travel ban to Canada's largest city.
The Eves government was defeated in the 2003 provincial election, and Clement was unexpectedly defeated by Vic Dhillon by about 2,500 votes in a rematch of 1999. Clement afterwards worked as a counsel for Bennett Jones LLP. He also was a small business owner and a visiting professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law.
Clement first became prominent in federal politics in 2000, sitting on the steering committee for the United Alternative. This initiative was meant to provide a framework for the Reform Party and Progressive Conservative Party to unite under a single banner. It did not accomplish this end, but nonetheless led to the formation of the Canadian Alliance later that year; Clement served as the Alliance's founding president.
Soon after the 2003 provincial election, Clement declared himself a candidate for the leadership of the new Conservative Party of Canada. His support base was undercut by the candidacy of Belinda Stronach, however, and he placed third in the party's leadership vote, while Stephen Harper emerged as the winner.
He then sought election as the Conservative Party candidate in Brampton West in the 2004 federal election, but lost to Liberal incumbent Colleen Beaumier by about 3,500 votes.
For his second attempt to win a seat in the Canadian House of Commons, in the 2006 campaign, he switched to the Parry Sound—Muskoka riding. On election night, he was declared winner by 21 votes. Upon conclusion of the judicial recount, Clement was found to have defeated Mitchell by 28 votes: 18,513-18,485. On February 6, 2006, Clement was appointed as Minister of Health by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Clement pledged to extend an existing measure to require disclosure of meetings by only registered lobbyists with lower-level government officials who have decision-making power.
Some of Clement's initiatives included announcing a national strategy on autism, working towards establishing Canada's first Patient Wait Times Guarantees, and investing in faster, more effective and safer health information systems across Canada for Canadians.
One of Clement's first initiatives as Minister of Health was establishing the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, an independent not-for-profit organization committed to combating this disease and improve patient quality of life.
In 2006, Clement launched the Public Health Scholarship and Capacity Building Initiative — on-going scholarships supporting public health training and positions across Canada. Furthermore, in 2006, he announced the $1-billion compensation package for pre-1986/post-1990 forgotten victims of the tainted blood scandal, who were neglected in the 1998 settlement agreement.
Clement also played a key role in launching the Chemical Management Plan, which the Conservative government claimed "made Canada a world leader in chemical management". "We have established clear priorities and now we are taking action to protect the health of Canadians," said Clement. Further, the government claimed "Canada was the first nation in the world to take action to prohibit the importation, sale and advertising of baby bottles that contain BPA".
On September 29, 2007, the CBC reported Clement's new strategy to combat the growing drug abuse problem in Canada. "The party is over" for illicit drug users, he announced, with the new policy aiming towards widespread arrest of drug users, in contrast to the old strategy of targeting dealers. Over 130 physicians and scientists signed a petition condemning the Conservative government's "potentially deadly" misrepresentation of the positive evidence for harm reduction programs. Clement stated that governments in Canada have been sending the wrong message about drug use, and he wanted to clear up the mixed messages going out on illicit drugs.
Also in 2007, Clement launched the new Canada's Food Guide, the first update in 15 years incorporating the most up-to-date information based on current nutritional science and a new interactive web section.
On October 30, 2008, Clement was sworn into the office of Industry Minister. This included the appointment to the Office of the Registrar General of Canada.
Shortly after becoming Industry Minister, Clement launched the Knowledge Infrastructure Program, a two-year $2-billion measure that supported infrastructure enhancement at post-secondary institutions across Canada.
In conjunction with the US and Ontario governments, Clement worked closely on the restructuring of GM and Chrysler. Following the successful restructuring, he stated that the companies "will now be in a position to operate a sustainable and viable business that will keep production, innovation and jobs in Canada." Furthermore, he said, "This is good news for Canadian auto workers, the Canadian auto parts supply chain and for Canadian consumers. Moving forward, the Government of Canada will continue to work toward strengthening our country's auto industry, while exercising rigorous oversight of taxpayer money."
In the summer of 2010, Clement introduced changes to the 2011 Census. On this issue, he said, "The government will retain the mandatory short form that will collect basic demographic information. To meet the need for additional information, and to respect the privacy wishes of Canadians, the government has introduced the voluntary National Household Survey (NHS)." The change sparked significant criticism, including the resignation of Statistics Canada's Chief Statistician (see Voluntary long-form survey controversy). Other changes included the addition of questions about the languages spoken by Canadians.
On November 14, 2010, Australia's BHP Billiton withdrew its hostile $39-billion offer for Saskatchewan's Potash Corporation. At a news conference following the withdrawal, Clement explained that of the six Investment Canada Act guidelines that determine if an investment has a "net benefit", he said BHP's bid failed to meet three of them. Clement said the Government felt the takeover would not have a beneficial effect on Canada's competitiveness in world markets.
In January 2011, Clement spoke out against a ruling of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) which allowed usage-based billing for wholesale clients and smaller internet service providers. Citing concerns about how the change could adversely affect consumers, small businesses and entrepreneurs, he warned that if they did not revise the decision, the government would intervene. The CRTC initiated its own review of the ruling, and reversed its decision.
In the lead-up to the 2010 G8 summit, Clement was involved in directing $50 million of border security money for largely unrelated projects in his own riding, a practice commonly known as "pork barrelling". Auditor-General Sheila Fraser issued a report criticizing the Minister for breaking the rules and "complained that there was no paperwork to determine how the hundreds of proposals" for spending were narrowed to the 32 projects that were approved. Clement later admitted that this process was not subject to the oversight that it should have been.
Shortly after the May 2, 2011 election, Clement was appointed as the President of the Treasury Board, a position of wide-ranging authority and oversight. Consistent with the Conservative Party of Canada's election platform, Clement has been tasked with leading a government-wide spending review, with the goal of finding ways to contain government spending.
On November 2, 2013, Clement backed a motion at the Conservative Party national convention that advocated clawing back public-sector pay and benefits. At the convention he vowed, as the minister responsible for negotiations with the civil service, to "alter the dynamics of collective bargaining as it has been done in this country over the last few decades".
On December 22, 2014, Clement was quoted by the Canadian Press as saying that government deliberately withholds public data because people using the information might "create havoc" by altering the contents.
On February 6, 2006, in addition to being appointed Minister of Health, Clement was also appointed Minister responsible for FedNor (Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario). Clement held the FedNor portfolio until July 2013. FedNor invests in projects that support community economic development, business growth and competitiveness, and innovation; FedNor's goal is to encourage economic growth, diversification, job creation and self-reliant communities in northern Ontario.
Between February 2006 and January 2012, FedNor approved $398 million in support of 1,742 projects, which leveraged an additional $614 million from other sources. During this same period, FedNor also approved $11 million towards 364 youth internships, with close to two-thirds of these interns finding employment following their internship. Of the total funding from February 2006 to January 2012, $44 million went toward 300 tourism-related projects, which included over 70 youth internships.
FedNor projects include some of the following:
Red Lake - Unorganized Kenora District - To build on existing efforts to extend Union Gas' natural gas pipeline to the Goldcorp mines, businesses, and residences of the Red Lake community. $2.7 million
Dryden - The Corporation of The City of Dryden - To expand Dryden's industrial park and the Norwill subdivision (acquisition and clearing of land, construction of an access road, and expansion of municipal services). $1,470,000
Eagle Lake - Eagle Lake First Nation - To prepare the First Nation for the development of one of two proposed wood processing plants for the Two Feathers Forest Products Initiative. Project cancelled on January 27, 2011
Parry Sound - The Corporation of the Town of Parry Sound - To expand municipal services to accommodate the announced $6.2-million construction of an expanded Parry Sound Canadore College campus. $1,290,000
FedNor has provided funding to encourage tourism in northern Ontario by:Increasing the awareness of this region as a tourism destination;
Encouraging product development and investments in northern Ontario's tourism assets and products by supporting new and expanding festivals and events, and developing niche tourism products (e.g., authentic Aboriginal, francophone, motorcycling touring routes);
Fostering an adequate supply of skills and labour to enhance visitor experiences.
Clement retained his seat in the 2015 general election that defeated the Conservative government. Moving to the Opposition benches, he was appointed the Opposition's critic for foreign affairs by interim Leader of the Opposition Rona Ambrose. He stepped down from the Shadow Cabinet on July 12, 2016 in order to launch his campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party. He ended his campaign on October 12, 2016, due to not meeting fundraising goals he had set for his campaign.
Clement has stated that they are circumstances where the death penalty is warranted.
Clement, as Conservative Public Safety Critic, stated in February 2017 that the RCMP needs to "enforce the law" to stop the influx of Syrian Refugees attempting to cross the Canada-US border in the wake of US President Donald Trump's Executive Order to ban citizens of certain majority Muslim countries from entering the United States. When a CBC interviewer asked Clement to specify the measures the RCMP must take to do so, he refused to answer. Clement later clarified "We are calling for two things in particular. One, more resources, more money and funding, and human resources for the border agents and for the RCMP to deal with this much higher influx.... Secondly, we want the federal government to develop a plan. What is the plan that is going to be employed or deployed to ensure that the rule of law continues in this country, that the laws are obeyed, that we don't have illegal crossings?"
Clement favored reforming Canada's taxation system. When running for the Conservative Party leadership he collaborated with Roger Martin on a proposal for a lifetime income tax.