Canadian conservative journalist and co-founder of Alberta’s Wildrose Party Link Byfield died of cancer on Saturday. He was 63.
Byfield’s father, Ted, founded a magazine in the early 1970’s called Alberta Report which Link would take over in the early ’80s.
Alberta Report was socially conservative, but also emphasized a concept known as Western alienation. Simply put, the four Canadian western provinces – British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba provided a majority of Canada’s natural resources, but their influence in Ottawa was negligble. The most notable example of this was Pierre Trudeau’s National Energy Program which, among other things, established price controls on oil. Opposition to the National Energy Program in Alberta was crucial in bringing Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservatives to power in 1984.
However, Byfield would grow disenchanted with the Tories due to perceived favortism towards Quebec as was the case when they awarded a government contract to build CF-18s to Quebec based firm rather than one in Manitoba which had submitted a lower bid. Byfield would soon champion the burgeoning Reform Party led by Preston Manning. The Reform Party advocated an elected Senate. Canada’s Senate is modeled on the British House of Lords and Senators are appointed by the Prime Minister.
Byfield would discontinue Alberta Report in 2003 after years of struggling to stay afloat. The following year, Albertans “elected” Byfield to the Canadian Senate. However, since the federal government did not recognize the election, Byfield was never seated. He was considered a Senator in Waiting.
At around this time, Byfield also established the Citizens Centre for Freedom & Democracy. By 2007, Byfield and other conservative activists had become dissatisfied with Alberta’s Tory government and decided to go into the electoral arena and established the Wildrose Party which would later become the province’s official opposition. Byfield twice ran for office under the Wildrose banner, but did not win a seat in the Alberta legislature. The defection of nearly the entire Wildrose caucus to the Tories last month was no doubt heartbreaking for a man in the final days of his life.
Nevertheless, Byfield’s influence in Canadian politics over the past three decades cannot be underestimated. Back in September, Peter Stockland wrote this about the legacy of Byfield and his father, “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.”