07/11/2012 04:22 EDT | Updated 07/12/2012 08:20 EDT

Tony Clement Backs Ezra Levant In Attack On Ex-Globe Editor Stephen Wicary For Moving To Cuba


Tony Clement has joined Sun News host Ezra Levant in criticizing former Globe and Mail editor Stephen Wicary for moving to Cuba.

The spat started last week when the outspoken Sun personality launched a tirade against Wicary for following his wife, who is taking a job with the charitable organization CARE Canada, to the Caribbean communist country. Levant argued that Wicary's move is evidence of the Canadian media's far-left bias.

And that could have been the end of it. Just one more chapter in the ongoing history of Ezra Levant making headlines for being Ezra Levant.

Enter the treasury board president.

Clement spent part of Wednesday celebrating Norman Bethune, a Canadian doctor (and card-carrying commie), who died taking care of Mao Zedong's army in 1939. The Tories have been paying increased attention to Bethune's legacy largely because he has become a national hero in China, where the Conservatives have been seeking to expand trade relations.

This led Wicary to tweet Levant asking if he's planning on running a "two-part hit job on that dirty red @TonyclementCPC."

While one might think Clement would stay out of a debate like this, the minister couldn't resist chiming in, as he often does on Twitter.

"@wicary @ezralevant My point was to celebrate things other than his communism. You chose to live in a communist country. Big difference," Clement tweeted.

The two men continued to spar online and their exchange sparked a lively reaction on the social network, which you can view in the slideshow at the bottom of this story.

Clement's comments raise interesting questions about the Conservative government's position regarding Cuba and China.

Earlier this year, the Tory minister responsible for Latin America Diane Ablonczy welcomed reforms in Cuba, softening the previously tough tone of the government. Clement doesn't seem to have gotten the memo.

Canada has maintained trade and political relations with Cuba despite considerable pressure from the United States, which has enforced a blockade on the island nation since the missile crisis in 1962.

Clement, however, doesn't seem to be a fan of spending time in Cuba. Is he suggesting Canadians should travel elsewhere?

And why the tough talk for Cuba and not China? Last time we checked, they were both communist countries.

Perhaps it has something to do with the vitriolic rant Cuba's former leader Fidel Castro launched at Stephen Harper back in April.

In our opinion, it seems more likely that this is just another example of Clement putting his foot in his mouth online. The minister was forced to apologize to a teen in January after calling him a "jackass" on Twitter.

Clement is in good company. Levant has also been in hot water recently over public profanity. In June, Sun News was ordered to tell its audience it violated Canadian broadcasters’ standards over Levant telling a Chiquita Banana executive to “f*ck his mother” in Spanish on air.

As Jonathan Kay has pointed out in the National Post, it would be one thing if Wicary were moving to Cuba to become some sort of cheerleader for the government. But he's not. He's moving to Cuba because his wife is taking a job with a charity.

And is Clement against all the other Canadians who have taken up residence in Cuba to do aid work, journalism or simply to bask in the sunlight?

We have a feeling we'll be hearing more on these questions from Clement on Twitter before long.

Thanks to CBC's Kady O'Malley for wading through the tweets.