Link Byfield, the long-time socially conservative editor and publisher of Alberta Report and a founding influence on both the federal Reform and Alberta Wildrose parties, passed away Jan. 24 after losing his battle with stage IV cancer of the liver and esophagus at the age of 63.
Byfield was named publisher of the conservative weekly Alberta Report in 1985 replacing his father, Ted, who founded the publication. Link added the title of editor in 1989. Under both Byfields the magazine was unabashedly conservative, but unlike some conservative organizations and publications, it was fiercely pro-life, pro-traditional family, and pro-religion. At its height, the magazine had a circulation of 75,000, and would spin-off regional editions, the Western Report and B.C. Report. In the 1990s it was relaunched as the The Report and geared to a national audience. In 2003, it ceased publication.
Under his leadership, the magazine pushed back against the Culture of Death and the Sexual Revolution, one time publishing photos of sexually transmitted diseases. In 1999 it revealed that Calgary’s Foothills hospital was committing eugenic infanticide by allowing babies born with genetic problems to be left to die following an early induction procedure. The public pressure the story created forced police to investigate the matter, although ultimately there were no charges.
Alberta Report incurred huge costs fighting human rights complaints and defamation complaints as it antagonized feminists, environmentalists, and others it deemed politically correct and a threat to civilization.
Last September, the Manning Centre in Calgary held a tribute dinner for Byfield where Ted Morton, a former Alberta cabinet minister and long-time political science professor (and frequent source for quotes for Alberta Report), said: “You cannot understand where Canada is today without understanding where it was in the ’80s and ’90s.” And you cannot fully understand the ’80s and ’90s without understanding the contribution of Alberta Report.” Morton explained, Alberta Report and its offshoots were the “Internet and Twitter” of the era for Canadian conservatives. The magazine is credited with influencing the creation of the Reform Party.
The conservative history of Canada would be radically different were it not for the Byfields. As Peter Stockland wrote for Cardus Daily last September: “No Byfields, no Alberta Report. No Alberta Report, no Reform Party as it was formed. No Reform Party, no PC collapse. No PC collapse, no Harper government. It’s short-hand history, but it’s fair short-hand history.”
And Link’s influence was direct, Stockland wrote: “During Link Byfield’s 18-year tenure as publisher and editor of the magazine, many of those alumni matured into direct contributors to the intellectual climate of the late 1990s when Canadian conservatism gained its credibility.” Just two who got their journalistic start at AR were Kenneth Whyte, founding editor of the National Post, and Ezra Levant of the Sun News Network.
In 2004, Byfield ran for senate in Alberta and finished fourth as an independent senator-in-waiting. Neither Paul Martin nor Stephen Harper ever appointed him to the Upper Chamber.
At the same time Byfield founded the Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy, a lobby group that fought for transparent and constitutional government.
In 2007, he helped found the Wildrose Party of Alberta. He twice ran for the party but did not win, coming within 300 votes of defeating the Progressive Conservatives in Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock.
In December, Byfield told LifeSiteNews that former Wildrose Party Danielle Smith “betrayed the party and betrayed its principles” when she defected to the provincial Tories. After she left because the party was moving too far right on social issues for her liking, Byfield said Wildrose’s “goal was to restore functioning democracy to Alberta … that job still needs to be done and she has abandoned it.” Smith complained about the party’s moral conservatives but Byfield said she knew when she joined the party that it had a socially conservative membership and leadership.
It was one of his last public pronouncements.
Link Byfield is survived by his wife Joanne, and four grown children. Joanne Byfield is a former president of Alberta Pro-Life (1997-2001) and president of LifeCanada (2004-2008).
In the interests of full disclosure, it should be noted that I contributed to The Report as a freelancer. On a personal note, Link Byfield was generous with his time and his counsel both as an editor and a source. I also wonder if I would be the conservative I am today without the intellectual influence of his magazines, read in high school and university at a time when there were few reliably Canadian conservative voices outside the pages of the Toronto Sun.