Last month one of Alberta’s conservative icons passed away. Ted Byfield was 93. Byfield, a propagandist for social conservative causes and a promoter of conservative parties and politicians (including Premier Jason Kenney), was best known for the magazine he founded—Alberta Report.
Byfield and his wife Virginia launched the magazine in 1979, covering news from a social conservative perspective and challenging prevailing views about crime, homosexuality, abortion, public education and government generally. Despite being a transplanted Easterner, he almost single-handedly created an Alberta stereotype.
A magazine of quite a different philosophical bent, Alberta Views, was founded in 1997 by educator and philanthropist Jackie Flanagan. Flanagan was prompted to create her magazine in part at least by the Ted Byfield stereotype. In her words, “Many eastern media turned to Ted Byfield when they wanted to hear the views of Albertans. And as a third-generation Albertan, I was concerned because he did not reflect the opinions of any Albertan I knew.”
The magazine war was on. Byfield playfully mocked Alberta Views and its liberal slant but, as they say, “he who laughs last….” Alberta Report, long suffering from economic woes, folded in 2003. Alberta Views continues to thrive. Covering political and social issues, and with a full catalogue of Alberta’s cultural life it is, one might say, the province’s version of The New Yorker.
It has won numerous national and Alberta awards, including Canadian Magazine of the Year at the 2008 National Magazine Awards. Author John Ralston Saul called it “the new model for what a magazine can be in Canada.”
Needless to say, I subscribe and read each issue from cover to cover. And would strongly recommend it to anyone seeking a moderate perspective on the province. As Ms. Flanagan intended, it comfortably overcomes the stereotype of Albertans as monolithically conservative. Having won the war of the magazines, how could it not?