A self-described political fixer says a former Alberta justice minister hired him to get a reporter’s phone records.
David Wallace says he was hired by Jonathan Denis to get the phone records of Alanna Smith, a former Calgary Herald reporter now at The Canadian Press. Wallace said Denis told him he wanted to track down the sources Smith relied on to find out if the size of Denis’ wedding reception violated COVID-19 protocols.
In an email from his attorney, Denis denied that he or his clients spoke to Wallace.
Wallace told The Canadian Press that Denis got his name thanks to longtime Conservative operatives Alan Hallman and Gerald Chipeur.
“Jonathan called me (and) told me that at his wedding he felt he had been targeted by bad press,” Wallace said in an interview. “He wanted to know who the sources (of Smith) were.
“He wanted me to go into my source contacts using databases for their cell phone private information communications.”
Wallace said he warned Denis that obtaining phone logs might be illegal.
“He basically said it was just information that I was gathering for my own use.”
Denis was the Progressive Conservative Cabinet Minister in Alberta from 2010 to 2015 and Minister of Justice for the past three years. Recently, he would have been the organizer of the campaign of Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre for the leadership of the federal party.
Wallace said he gets politicians out of tough spots to make a living.
“I’m a repairman,” said Wallace, a former Ontarian who now lives in Calgary. “I can find things or people and I can massage and solve difficult situations.”
Wallace said he had a 30-year career behind the political scenes. He spoke with The Canadian Press because, he says, he’s had enough.
“I’m sick of being a tool,” he said. “I’m finished.”
Wallace said he also fears his work will be used to intimidate people or inappropriately influence political debate.
Wallace, who is not a licensed private investigator, said he was lured west by the promise of lucrative contracts from prominent people in Alberta’s conservative circles. In early 2021, he said, he heard from Hallman.
Hallman, whose association with provincial Conservative politics dates back to the 1990s, led Jason Kenney’s 2017 campaign for United Conservative Party leadership until he was suspended for a year. At the time, Hallman said the suspension was related to the use of profanity in a social media post.
He remains close to the prime minister. In 2020, he hosted a birthday party for 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,” Wallace said. “I said, ‘Okay.’
Dozens of emails, text messages, bank statements
Wallace backs up what he says with dozens of emails, text messages, bank statements, invoices and other electronic documents. They include messages that appear to be from Denis, but Denis has not confirmed that they are his.
The Canadian Press was unable to confirm the authenticity of the emails and other documents using the data accompanying them.
However, some emails implicate people who are not involved in this story. The Canadian Press contacted seven. Five confirmed sending the emails and two declined to comment; none said the emails were fake or altered.
In the documents, a message that appears to be from Denis claims that the Calgary Herald received a tip about his wedding reception on January 30, 2021.
He appears to say the tip was an attempt to embarrass Mike Ellis, a member of the UCP legislature, guest at the reception and party whip. It was believed then that Ellis was considering running for mayor of Calgary.
The documents suggest that Denis was trying to find the source of the tip through Smith’s phone logs.
“She and the Herald are not the target,” an alleged February 13, 2021 email from Denis to Wallace said. “I want to know who is pushing this.”
A separate email the same day suggests that Wallace and Denis have reached an agreement. Denis would pay Wallace $5,000 per month based on at least 20 hours per week.
“How long do you plan to work on it before you see results?” asks for an email sent the next day, apparently from Denis.
“Don’t worry, it won’t be a difficult solution,” Wallace seems to have replied. “People like those who do such things are always careless and leave a lot of evidence.”
The emails suggest Denis hired Wallace on Feb. 15.
“I am hiring you on the recommendation of Alan Hallman, who says you have achieved tangible results for him,” said an email that day, apparently from Denis to Wallace.
“With all due respect, I expect the same and may send you some more work if this investigation bears fruit. I should let you know that one of your competitors in Calgary has told me that he does not there was no way to get results here, so my chips are on you.”
An electronic transfer receipt from February 15 appears to show a payment of $5,350 from Denis to Wallace. An email sent two days later appears to show Denis promising Wallace more work “if we can meet with some success here”.
Documents provided by Wallace indicate that the work did not last long. On March 20, a post purportedly from Wallace reported results.
“Hi, I retrieved the cellphone carrier logs from my source this afternoon,” reads an email from an account that appears to belong to Wallace. “I’ll need $1,100 to cover the rest of the bill. If it’s allowed, let me know and you can email me a transfer.”
The documents appear to show that a payment of $1,180 from Denis to Wallace was made the following week.
Wallace said he falsified some of the information he gave Denis out of concern for the reporter’s safety.
“Records are legit,” he said. “I just didn’t provide him with the legitimate phone booth in terms of actual calls, hours and orders.”
The emails seem to suggest that Denis was initially satisfied. On April 11, one said, “May have a new file for you (Wallace). Talk to me in the morning.”
Changes in tone
But from June, a new tone creeps in.
“I have been requesting backup documents in my case for over two months now,” reads a June 23 email, allegedly from Denis.
“I paid you ‘lots of money’ for this report, but it is useless to me without the backup documents. I have much more work than I can send to you in Calgary from myself and my contacts. However – I need this documentation.”
Denis’ attorney, Brendan Miller, said in a letter that his client was unable to respond to questions raised by the emails because doing so would require Denis to breach solicitor-client privilege.
“As Mr. Denis has undertaken to meet his professional obligations, we are unable to respond,” Miller wrote.
“If there was any information passed between Mr. Denis or his clients with Mr. Wallace (which is not admitted but denied), it would be subject to privilege.”
Miller does not specify which client he is referring to. Ellis’ publicist, Eric Engler, said Ellis had not hired Denis in over a decade and was unaware of or involved in any way in efforts to obtain the journalist’s telephone logs.
Hallman seemed to have maintained his interest in Wallace’s work. In a March 28, 2021 WhatsApp message apparent to Wallace, he asked if any phone numbers from previous messages “matched the Jonathan investigation.”
The documents include an apparent nondisclosure agreement preventing Wallace from disclosing communications between him and Hallman. Signed in April, it also prohibits Wallace from making derogatory comments about Hallman and releases Hallman from any liability to Wallace.
In a brief phone conversation, Hallman declined to comment on Wallace’s claims, but admitted knowing him.
“The guy is unstable,” Hallman told The Canadian Press. “I don’t want anything to do with him.”
Hallman did not respond to a registered letter delivered to his office on March 25 containing a detailed list of questions.
Wallace’s emails suggest that Hallman was not the only conservative agent familiar with Wallace.
A Jan. 17, 2021 note that appears to be from Swiper reads, “Client is very pleased with your previous assistance,” then offers Wallace a contract.
Chipeur was a lawyer for the federal Conservative Party and helped bring about the merger between the Progressive Conservatives and the Reform Party of Canada.
He did not respond to a letter delivered to his office on April 1.
These days, Wallace said, he’s not interested in new contracts. He said he was tired of work that compromises people and can put them in dangerous situations.
“I’m just tired,” he said. “I don’t want to do this anymore.”