A self-described political fixer says a former Alberta justice minister hired him to obtain a reporter’s phone logs.
David Wallace says he was hired by Jonathan Denis to get the phone records of Alanna Smith, a former Calgary Herald reporter now of The Canadian Press. Mr. Wallace said Mr. Denis told him he wanted to trace sources Ms. Smith had drawn on for a story about whether the size of Denis’s wedding reception broke COVID-19 protocols.
In an e-mail from his lawyer, Mr. Denis denied that he or his clients talked to Mr. Wallace.
Mr. Wallace told The Canadian Press that Mr. Denis got his name through Alan Hallman and Gerald Chipeur, longtime conservative operatives.
“Jonathan called me [and] told me that at his wedding he feels he had been targeted for poor press,” Mr. Wallace said in an interview. “He wanted to find out who [Smith’s] sources were.
“He wanted me to go into my source contacts using databases to their private cellphone information communications.”
Mr. Wallace said he warned Mr. Denis that obtaining phone logs could be illegal.
“He basically said this is just information I’m gathering for my own use.”
Mr. Denis was a Progressive Conservative cabinet minister in Alberta from 2010 to 2015 and justice minister for the last three of those years. Recently, he was reported to be an organizer for Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre’s campaign for leadership of the federal party.
On Monday, a spokesman for Mr. Poilievre said Mr. Denis was no longer with the campaign.
“He was a volunteer previously but is no longer involved,” said Anthony Koch in a text. He did not say when Mr. Denis left the campaign team.
Mr. Wallace said he gets politicians out of tight spots for a living.
“I’m a repairman,” said Mr. Wallace, a former Ontarian now living in Calgary. “I can find things or people and I can massage and fix difficult situations.”
Mr. Wallace said he has had a 30-year career in political backrooms. He spoke with The Canadian Press because, he said, he’s had enough.
“I’m tired of being a tool,” he said. “I’m done.”
Mr. Wallace said he’s also grown concerned his work could be used to intimidate people or improperly influence political debate.
Mr. Wallace, who is not a licensed private investigator, said he was lured to the West by the promise of lucrative contracts from people prominent in Alberta conservative circles. In early 2021, he said, he heard from Mr. Hallman.
Mr. Hallman, whose association with provincial Conservative politics goes back to the 1990s, managed Jason Kenney’s 2017 campaign for the leadership of the United Conservative Party until he was suspended for one year. At the time, Mr. Hallman said the suspension was related to the use of profanity in a social media post.
He remains close to the premier. In 2020, he held a birthday party for Mr. Kenney attended by two cabinet ministers, said a guest who was there. His son, Chad Hallman, works as a political staffer for Alberta Health.
“I got a phone call from Hallman, asking me to speak to his friend Jonathan,” Mr. Wallace said. “I said, ‘OK.”’
Mr. Wallace backs up what he says with dozens of e-mails, text messages, bank statements, invoices and other electronic documents. They include messages that appear to be from Mr. Denis, but Mr. Denis has not confirmed they are his.
The Canadian Press has been unable to confirm the authenticity of the e-mails and other documents using the data accompanying them.
However, some e-mails involve people not involved in this story. The Canadian Press contacted seven. Five confirmed they had sent the e-mails and two declined comment; none said the e-mails were false or altered.
In the documents, a message that appears to come from Mr. Denis claims the Calgary Herald received a tip about his Jan. 30, 2021, wedding reception.
He appears to say the tip was an attempt to embarrass UCP legislature member Mike Ellis, a guest at the reception and party whip. Mr. Ellis was then thought to be considering a run for Calgary mayor.
The documents suggest Mr. Denis was trying to find the source of the tip through Ms. Smith’s phone logs.
“She and the Herald are not the target,” said a Feb. 13, 2021, purported e-mail from Mr. Denis to Mr. Wallace. “I want to find out who’s pushing this.”
A separate e-mail the same day suggests Mr. Wallace and Mr. Denis reached a deal. Mr. Denis would pay Mr. Wallace $5,000 a month based on at least 20 hours a week.
“How long do you anticipate working on this before likely achieving results?” asks an e-mail sent the next day, seemingly from Mr. Denis.
“Rest easy, it won’t be a hard fix,” Mr. Wallace appears to have responded. “People like the ones who do such things are always sloppy and leave lots of evidence.”
The e-mails suggest Mr. Denis hired Mr. Wallace on Feb. 15.
“I am hiring you on the recommendation of Alan Hallman, who says you have got tangible results for him,” said an e-mail that day, apparently from Mr. Denis to Mr. Wallace.
“Respectfully, I expect the same, and can send you a fair bit of more work if this investigation bears fruit. I should let you know that one of your competitors in Calgary told me there was no way he could get results here, so my chips are on you.”
A Feb. 15 e-transfer receipt appears to show a payment of $5,350 from Mr. Denis to Mr. Wallace. An e-mail sent two days later appears to show Mr. Denis promising Mr. Wallace more work “if we can meet with some success here.”
The documents provided by Mr. Wallace say the work didn’t take long. By March 20, a message purportedly from Mr. Wallace reported results.
“Hello, picking up the cell carrier logs from my source this afternoon,” says an e-mail from an account that appears to belong to Mr. Wallace. “I’ll need $1,100 to cover the rest of bill for it. If that’s authorized let me know and you can e-transfer me.”
The documents seem to show an $1,180 payment from Mr. Denis to Mr. Wallace was made the following week.
Mr. Wallace said he falsified some of the information he gave Mr. Denis out of concern for the reporter’s safety.
“The records are legitimate,” he said. “I just didn’t provide him with the legitimate phone box in terms of the actual calls, times and orders.”
The e-mails seem to suggest Mr. Denis was initially satisfied. On April 11, one says: “May have a new file for you [Wallace]. Chat me up in the a.m.”
But by June, a new tone creeps in.
“I’ve been requesting backup documents in my matter now for over two months,” says a June 23 e-mail, purportedly from Mr. Denis.
“I’ve paid you ‘good money’ for this report but it is useless to me without the backup documents. I have a lot more work I can throw you in Calgary from me personally and from my contacts. However – I need this documentation.”
Mr. Denis’s lawyer, Brendan Miller, said in a letter his client is unable to respond to questions raised by the e-mails because that would force Mr. Denis to violate solicitor-client privilege.
“As Mr. Denis is committed to upholding his professional obligations, we are unable to respond,” wrote Mr. Miller.
“If there were information conveyed between Mr. Denis or his clients with Mr. Wallace (which is not admitted but denied), it would be subject to privilege.”
Mr. Miller does not specify which client he is referring to. Mr. Ellis’s press secretary, Eric Engler, said Mr. Ellis has not hired Mr. Denis for over a decade and was not aware of or in any way involved in efforts to obtain the reporter’s phone logs.
Mr. Hallman seemed to have maintained interest in Mr. Wallace’s work. In an apparent March 28, 2021, WhatsApp message to Mr. Wallace, he asked if any phone numbers from previous messages “line up with the Jonathan investigation.”
The documents include a seeming non-disclosure agreement blocking Mr. Wallace from releasing communications between him and Hallman. Signed in April, it also forbids Mr. Wallace from making disparaging comments about Mr. Hallman and releases Mr. Hallman from any liability toward Mr. Wallace.
In a brief telephone conversation, Mr. Hallman refused to comment on Mr. Wallace’s claims, but acknowledged knowing him.
“The guy’s unstable,” Mr. Hallman told The Canadian Press. “I want nothing to do with him.”
Mr. Hallman did not respond to a registered letter delivered to his office March 25 containing a list of detailed questions.
Mr. Wallace’s e-mails suggest Mr. Hallman wasn’t the only conservative operative familiar with Mr. Wallace.
A Jan. 17, 2021, note that appears to be from Mr. Chipeur reads: “The client is very happy with your previous assistance,” then goes on to offer Mr. Wallace a contract.
Mr. Chipeur was a lawyer for the federal Conservative party and helped work out the merger between the Progressive Conservatives and the Reform Party of Canada.
He did not respond to a letter delivered to his office April 1.
These days, Mr. Wallace said, he isn’t interested in new contracts. He said he’s tired of work that compromises people and may put them in dangerous situations.
“I’m just tired,” he said. “I don’t want to do this any more.”
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