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Industry minister Clement says comments were 'boneheaded'

Federal Conservative industry minister Tony Clement expressing regret over his recent comments that Greater Sudbury would have become a “Valley of Death” if Vale hadn't taken over Inco.
File Photo.

Federal Conservative industry minister Tony Clement expressing regret over his recent comments that Greater Sudbury would have become a “Valley of Death” if  Vale hadn't taken over Inco.

“I guess what I can say is, like every other human being and certainly like every other politician, sometimes you say something in a way that was boneheaded,” Clement said in a phone interview with Northern Life Friday morning.

“And I think that this one would qualify for that. That's unfortunate.”

Putting his comments into context, the minister said, “The nature of the discussion was on US Steel, that was what the call was about. But listen, I said it. And as I mentioned, it was a boneheaded thing to say.

“Let he who has not said a boneheaded thing, cast the first stone.”

Clement said Sudburians can find evidence he has supported them throughout the years, if they look at his record.

“At the same time I think Sudburians, if they were to check their hearts and check the record, would know that I've been there for them in the past, whether it was as a provincial politician announcing the medical school or creating the Greater Sudbury municipality, and certainly here at FedNor,” he said.

“(And with) investments in NORCAT or Laurentian University, I've been there for Sudbury. So I think that's the record that speaks for itself. I'm certainly very committed to working with the mayor and with Rick Bartolucci and whoever else wants to work with me on Sudbury's issues.”

As far as plans for the future of Sudbury, Clement said, “I guess what I can say is, having good conversation with the mayor of Sudbury the other day (two days ago), we're focused together on improving investment in Sudbury, business development, (and) economic development. That's what I am doing and what I can do with civic leaders in Sudbury. That's the reality of how I spend my time.”

The conversation between the mayor and Clement also focused on his potential visit.

“We talked about my potential visit. He and I are going to work together to put together a good program for me.”

The purpose of Clement's call to Rodriguez was not to respond to the mayor's letter, which was sent from the mayor to Clement on July 20 and called the minister's comments “misinformed.”

Although Clement said there are plans for him to come to Sudbury, a date hasn't been “nailed down,” and the minister would not estimate a time frame.

When informed of Barbara Ackland's petition requesting for an apology from Clement, he said, “I think official apologies (are) for things that are tragic or historically terrible. They're not for these things. Let's get our heads screwed on straight again and work on the issues that really matter.”

Clement said his name is likely to come up when federal NDP leader Jack Layton visits striking Vale Inco employees in Sudbury.

“I'm going to go out on a limb and say my name is going to come up,” he said. “But I'm not going to get involved in the strike situation, I don't think it's appropriate for a federal minister to do. Actually, I don't think it's appropriate for the NDP leader to do that, but that's his business.”

The last time Clement was in town on official business was before the last federal election.

“I think it was just a little bit before the last election, so it's been awhile and that's why I've carved out some time this summer,” he said. “Technically I was in Sudbury about three weeks ago, but that was for fishing. Along the French (River), north of the French River. I don't think that counts. I was putting my tourism dollars to work for you.”

As far as NDP MPs asking for Clement's resignation, they are “just playing politics,” he said.

“It really is not a story when NDP MPs ask for a Conservative cabinet minister to resign, that's what they do five days a week on Parliament Hill. If that's how they want to spend their time, I guess that's their right.”