The Book of Ted: Epistles from an Unrepentant Redneck, by Ted Byfield (Keystone Press Inc., $34.95, 269 pages)

The American columnist George Will once said that before there was Ronald Reagan there was Barry Goldwater, before there was Goldwater there was National Review, and before there was National Review there was William F. Buckley.

The point was that political movements have their beginnings in ideas, often enunciated by certain magazines and books, and those publications are intricately tied to the life of a certain person or group of people.

The Canadian equivalent may go like this: before there was the Reform Party there wasAlberta Report, before there was Alberta Report there was Ted Byfield. But that would not be entirely fair to Byfield who, as his collection of columns The Book of Ted: Epistles from an Unrepentent Redneck illustrates, doesn’t abandon principles in exchange for popularity.

Byfield, in his columns in Alberta Report, the magazine he founded, and in newspaper columns including the erstwhile Financial Post and currently in the Edmonton Sun, has been fighting many of the same battles on the journalistic front as Reform has in the political arena: the centralization of power in Ottawa, economic mismanagement, and the loss of traditional values. But while Reform now seems eager to throw these principles overboard for the opportunity at political power, Byfield has kept true to his beliefs.

He was taking on the politically correct two decades before the term was even invented. He bluntly but elequently argues against feminism, abortion, the Playboy culture of easy and inconsequential sex, scandalously inept schools, the equally inept criminal justice system, the encroaching secularism, and the gay-rights agenda.

Unlike many who spend their time criticizing without offering solutions, Byfield argues for the Canada of yesteryear, which he sees as recapturable. If only we could reconcile ourselves – both individually and as a society – to God and understand that traditional arrangements of morals and manners served the purpose of good order, all could be made right.

But his genius, though, is getting to the nub of an issue. In 1980, Byfield was a guest on the CBC to talk about abortion, along with Henry Morgentaler. Byfield asked a hypothetical question: if several men are out hunting and one of them sees something move in the woods but he is unsure it is a deer, that perhaps it could another hunter, should he shoot anyway? Obviously, the answer is no, but Morgentaler protested that he doesn’t answer hypothetical questions and the CBC complained the question was unfair. The tape never ran. The problem for both the CBC and Morgentaler is the point of the question which undermines the pro-abortion argument that if we do not “know” whether or not the fetus is a human being, why bother fussing over terminating a pregnancy? Byfield wonders why not err on the side of caution.

Some will complain that this argument is not a strong enough pro-life argument, but that is not Byfield’s point (though he has consistently supported the life ethic in his three decades of journalism and there are other examples of that in the book). Byfield destroys opposing arguments and demolishes any lie with straight talk. Anyone but an intellectual would be able to understand what he is saying if only they take off their ideological blinders.

His straight forward reporting is unparalled in the Canadian punditocracy. In 1989, he wrote about “therapeutic” abortions “where the little one is ‘therapeutically’ ripped to pieces, limb by limb, by a suction machine.” In the zietgiest it doesn’t matter, he snidely comments, “What matters is ‘choice,’ meaning the mother’s. The baby doesn’t have one.”

Byfield comes from the age which did not view the term “judgmental” pejoratively.

He doesn’t wince from criticizing those who refuse to take responsibility or recognize that the truth can be spelled with a capital T. He only trumpets that which is right, and he deems what is right based on his Christian principles.

Defending Alberta Report’s graphic coverage of a Vancouver gay pride parade, Byfield argued that the gay lobby had to be countered.

The gay lobby, he said, was no longer seeking mere tolerance, but was becoming “a missionary cause,” advocating a lifestyle and pushing it upon our children. In many provinces, he notes, criticizing the gay agenda could be a crime because it violates human rights codes. Yet Byfield refuses “to retreat” from telling the truth.

In another column, this one from December 1985, he decried the Playboy culture which Byfield quite rightly recognized as much more than the pornographic pictures that are featured in Hugh Hefner’s magazine. Instead, the terrible consequences of Hefner’s marketing nude pictures is “a signal to the simple-minded male of the day the old rules had at last been lifted. Life-long vows no longer obtained.

Familial obligation was now negotiable. Fidelity had been repealed.” Freedom has come to mean licentiousness and we’re too stupid to realize that we are becoming enslaved by it.