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Former Alberta justice minister admits to contract with political fixer

Alberta Justice Minister Jonathan Denis comments on an auditor general’s report in Edmonton on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Former Alberta justice minister Jonathan Denis has told a newspaper columnist that he had a contract with a political fixer but denies he asked for a reporter’s phone logs to trace the sources of a story.

The self-described fixer, David Wallace, earlier told The Canadian Press that Denis hired him to get the phone records of Alanna Smith, a former Calgary Herald reporter now of The Canadian Press.

Read more: Political ‘fixer’ says former Alberta justice minister hired him to get reporter’s phone logs

Wallace said Denis told him he wanted to trace sources Smith had drawn on for a story about whether the size of Denis’s 2021 wedding reception broke COVID-19 protocols.

Denis, an Alberta cabinet minister from 2010 to 2015, told Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid this week that he had a contract with the investigator but never asked for Smith’s phone records.

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“I am sorry if the reporter felt her privacy was being violated, just as I felt she was violating my privacy by trying to find a negative story about the happiest day of my life. Let’s not forget that,” he said in the Herald.

“For the record, I never asked for nor received private phone information.”

Denis did not immediately respond Thursday to another request for comment from The Canadian Press.

He had previously denied to The Canadian Press, through his lawyer, that he or his clients communicated with Wallace.

Read more: Former Alberta justice minister Jonathan Denis found in contempt of court

Earlier this week, The Canadian Press reported on a long string of emails, receipts and other documents that seemed to show Denis hired Wallace to discover who had tipped the reporter to the story about his wedding reception. The Canadian Press was unable to confirm the authenticity of the emails and other documents using data accompanying them.

The emails suggest Denis was trying to protect his friend and political ally Mike Ellis, a sitting United Conservative Party junior cabinet minister then thought to be considering running for mayor of Calgary. Ellis’s press secretary, Eric Engler, has said Ellis had not hired Denis for over a decade and was not aware of or in any way involved in efforts to obtain the reporter’s phone logs.

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Observers said Tuesday the purported emails seem to show how the province’s politics has deteriorated in Alberta.

Denis is closely linked to Pierre Poilievre, the front-runner for the leadership of the federal Conservative party.

Until recently, Denis was volunteering for Poilievre’s campaign. In 2004, the two founded a political communications company together called 3D Contact and continue to co-own and manage a real estate investment firm in Calgary called Liberty West Properties.

On Wednesday, an Edmonton judge found Denis in contempt of court for threatening to sue a plaintiff in the middle of her testimony in a civil trial.

The judge ruled that a letter sent last week on behalf of Denis was an attempt to intimidate Dr. Anny Sauvageau, a former chief medical examiner, who is suing the Alberta government. She is alleging wrongful dismissal in 2014, when Denis was justice minister.

 

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