The smoking gun of political interference?

by Gary McHale - The Regional

August 26, 2009

There are repeated public statements by McGuinty, Fantino and other OPP  Brass that there is no political interference in policing in Caledonia. I think the public is smart enough to draw their own conclusions about whether such claims are true.

However, personal opinion doesn't hold much water in court so when you do have solid evidence of political interference that passes the test in court then the public needs to hear about it. The accumulation of evidence from several court hearings has provided us with clear evidence that the political arm of the McGuinty Government has been and continues to be directly involved in the actions of the OPP.

Hamilton Police officer Dave Hartless lives near DCE and has been the focal point of the Government's efforts to silence residents who speak out. On Feb. 17, 2007 Mr. Hartless sent out an email expressing his views of the failure of the McGuinty Government regarding Caledonia. Within 2 hours John Nolan was sending a copy to Insp. McLean who then sent it to Commissioner Fantino. Fantino immediately sent an email to Chief Mullan of the Hamilton Police to ask for some sort of action to be taken against Mr. Hartless.

What exactly got everyone upset? Well, Mr. Hartless called McGuinty a 'coward'. Why is Mr. Nolan, the political arm of the Ontario Government, directing the OPP's attention to an individual resident in Caledonia?

On Dec. 5, 2006 Mr. Nolan again emailed Insp. McLean about a letter from Mr. Hartless supporting residents' rights to raise a Canadian Flag. A complaint by the OPP was filed against Mr. Hartless.

At first Fantino testified he could not remember who John Nolan was then slowly admitted that Mr. Nolan works for the Ontario Government. After several more questions Fantino admitted Mr. Nolan is on the negotiation team. At first, Fantino claimed not to know what position Mr. Nolan had within the negotiation team but then admitted that he is the Senior Negotiator for Ontario.

An interesting point in these emails is what Insp. McLean stated when he forwarded Mr. Nolan's email to Fantino. Insp. McLean stated, "I could be wrong but perhaps Chief Mullan might like a heads up should the premier's office of the minister of CS [Community Safety] and CS who also got this email want to discuss it with the officer's chief. Just a thought as I know you would like a heads up if I or any of your officers called the premier a coward directly in an email to so many politicians and press including the Hamilton Spectator which the Chief likely reads."

So in Insp. McLean's mind he believes that the Premier's office may want to discuss Mr. Hartless' email - I thought McGuinty's office didn't get directly involved in day to day policing issues. Why would it be acceptable for McGuinty's office or the Minister of Community Safety to be calling up any police Chief and discussing the fact that someone called McGuinty a coward?

Of course, Fantino added his two cents when he forwarded the email to Chief Mullan and stated, "Bad enough the he [Hartless] slams the men and women of the OPP, refers to the Premier as being a coward on several occasions but then scatters his venomous email far and wide."

At first Fantino testified that it was completely appropriate for a Government employee to be sending emails to the OPP to draw their attention to an individual but then tried to state it was unclear who sent the email to whom. After reading several pages of transcripts you get to the part where Fantino finally admits that John Nolan, Senior Negotiator for the Ontario Government, sent Mr. Hartless' email to Insp. McLean who then sent it to Fantino who then sent it to Chief Mullan. It wasn't very hard to proof who sent what, but Fantino repeatedly didn't want to admit to it.

There is also evidence that the OPP directly contact key people in the Ontario Government regarding the day to day events in Caledonia. When Commissioner Fantino sent the threatening email on April 7, 2007 to Haldimand Council he copied Tony Dean, Chris Morley and Peter Wilkinson. There were several other people copied on Fantino's email but these three stand out because they are not police officers. Peter Wilkinson was McGuinty's chief of staff. Chris Morley was McGuinty's press secretary. Tony Dean was McGuinty's secretary to cabinet and at the time he was the Deputy Premier of Ontario.

The public is told that the Government doesn't get involved in the day to day operation of the OPP so why is the Commissioner sending an email to the political arm of the Government? Why did Fantino feel the need to inform these people that he was threatening council members and how did each of these people reply to the email?

This is not the first time Chris Morley's name has popped up in regards to Caledonia. In Aug. 2006 CHCH TV interviewed me regarding McGuinty's plans for DCE. Chris Morley called CHCH TV and threatened the TV station that they would be punished for airing the interview.

Another direct example of political involvement in how the OPP function is found when OPP Officer John Murray took the stand on Dec. 14, 2007. The Crown called Mr. Murray as a witness to testify at my bail hearing.

Officer Murray was telling the court, in an attempt to justify travel restrictions, that my involvement was 'hindering' negotiations.  When I questioned him further he stated, '... ongoing negotiations at a political level at both the Provincial and Federal levels and that there was concerns expressed to the OPP that your continued exposure to this, this issue was hindering that process.'

This expresses the real reason why the OPP asked for travel restrictions - the political arm of the Government spoke with the OPP.

Officer Murray wanted to correct what I believe was a clear statement by saying, "... What I said sir was that the OPP officers had occasion to speak with people that were affected stakeholders and those affected stakeholders relate to us that they believed that your interference in their issue was creating problems. I never suggested that the Federal government or the Provincial government came down and had any input at all, with anything that we have done..."

The problem with Officer Murray's so-called clarification is that he has no direct knowledge of any of the events prior to Dec. 1, 2007. I believe he was picked to take the stand because of his lack of knowledge. He testified he was reading from a prepared text and that he didn't have any direct knowledge. He testified that he had never been to Caledonia before nor had he ever heard of Gary McHale.

So Officer Murray didn't know whether anyone from within the Government had approached the OPP. His prepared text stated that people within the Government had expressed concerns to the OPP but Officer Murray had no knowledge of these contacts or the contents of these conversations.

What we do have at the very least are several examples of members of the political arm of the government expressing their concerns regarding the day to day business of the OPP - something the public has been told doesn't happen.