PHOTOS: Ted Byfield at the microphone (Edson leader photo). Below: Alberta Education Minister David Eggen, the late Link Byfield, Mr. Byfield’s son, and a cover from the bad old days of Alberta Report magazine.

Like the proverbial bad penny, Ted Byfield is back.

It should come as no surprise that Mr. Byfield, now 87 and still apparently furious the world has changed, is once again hoping to influence Alberta’s political course.

I suppose Mr. Byfield should be taken seriously. He was and is closely tied to the Harper-Manning-Kenney Axis of Autocracy. He has powerful friends with plenty of money on Alberta’s thoroughly Republicanized right. He holds paleoconservative views that are again becoming respectable, sad to say, in the Age of Donald Trump, Caudillo of the United States.

Mr. Byfield is a talented rhetorician, a devoted propagandist for social conservative causes and a proselytizer of a highly politicized interpretation of the Christian message, which it is said here is not that of the Gospels. Admirably, he keeps at it through tough times: he lost a daughter in 2007, his son Link, in 2015, and his wife Virginia last year. Link and Virginia were both right-wing writers and activists as well.

Mr. Byfield is a skilled and entertaining writer, if inclined to make tendentious arguments.

He is also aided by many acolytes in far-right journalism, which nowadays in Canada is about all there is outside the blogosphere. Many are alumni of publications he founded and ran from the late Sixties through the early Zeroes. They were economic failures but influential just the same. The last survivor, Alberta Report, folded in 2003.

I have no doubt these many Byfield loyalists in journalism will be willing to pitch in with his latest crusade, and I use that term advisedly. As he summed it up recently in in two words in a newly launched blog: Jason and Kenney.

“They identify a man with three tasks – to win the Progressive Conservative leadership, to create a single conservative party, and to drive (the NDP) government from office in the next election,” Mr. Byfield wrote in a post excoriating NDP Education Minister David Eggen for what he imagines to be the liberal conspiracy behind the NDP Government’s extensive review of Alberta’s education curriculum.

Throughout his long career, Mr. Byfield has never had much difficulty spotting sinister progressives lurking and working like rust to destroy civilization as we know it at the drop of a budenovka. Indeed, as a journalist with a strong interest in education – in the Sixties he was one of the founders the justly controversial St. John’s School for boys – he obviously sees classrooms as a particularly promising environment for such subversion.

Other social conservative obsessions shared by Mr. Byfield include LGBTQ rights, women’s reproductive rights, and new-fangled ideas about how to teach arithmetic.

As a result, Mr. Eggen, a social democratic minister of education who recently tried to enforce a law requiring gay-straight alliances in schools where students want them, may have been a natural target for a man with Mr. Byfield’s preoccupations.

It’s fair to say the blogging octogenarian’s style, as illustrated by his attack on Mr. Eggen, is to report facts, but spin them hard as suits his worldview, leaving the impression the target of his ire is up to no good. An occasional shot of sarcasm lends astringency to the blend.

Thus, under the heading, “Self-seen czar of the school system is out to mould a new Alberta,” Mr. Byfield accuses Mr. Eggen of “incomprehensible arrogance” and suggests he was being secretive about not stating the names of the people directly involved in the government’s extensive curriculum reform consultation.

“The minister gave three answers in a row,” Mr. Byfield wrote of a public forum on the review, clearly aiming for the impression Mr. Eggen intended to obfuscate. “First, there are ‘three hundred individuals’ involved in this revision. He could hardly name them all, and anyway some of them might not want to be publicly identified with it. Second, about a minute later: Actually ‘thousands’ of people were involved in it. Third, a minute after that, ‘thirty-two thousand’ people were involved in the revision, says the minister.” (I have taken the liberty of correcting a small typographical error in the original.)

Mr. Eggen may well have said something like this for the simple reason, without the Byfield spin, the numbers reflect the facts. To wit: About 300 people serve on the Alberta Education’s curriculum review panels. Most are teachers, although a significant number come from First Nations and other jurisdictions that use Alberta curriculum. In addition, approximately 32,000 Albertans have filled out the government’s curriculum, survey.

As for Mr. Eggen’s concern about the privacy of the individuals involved, this seems entirely justified on two counts: First, naming them is probably illegal under the privacy legislation the NDP inherited from the Conservative dynasty that ran Alberta for more than four decades. Second, participants in such a review risk being assailed by the unsleeping army of cross-border alt-right trolls that serves the same cause as Mr. Byfield.

As for the astringent sarcasm, Mr. Byfield rather missed the mark this time: “His name is David Eggen. But there’s a problem here. He wants it pronounced Eagen, not Eggen as it’s spelled. This is altogether understandable. Remember he was a teacher for many years. Children, especially boys, can be so cruel – Egghead, Eggnog, Eggen-His-Face, the possibilities are endless. So please. Eggen is Eagen, not Eggen.”

Alas, there is one problem with this bizarre rant – other than that it’s irrelevant to the point Mr. Byfield wants to make. That is, Mr. Eggen pronounces his name Eggen … as in “egg.” (It comes from the Norwegian of Mr. Eggen’s ancestors, by the way, meaning the sharp edge of an axe.) God only knows what those cruel boys made of Byfield!

Speaking of the thin edge of the wedge, Mr. Byfield’s blog was promoted as a Facebook link for parents of home schooled and private schooled children by Parents for Choice in Education, a politicized group that despite its claim to be non-partisan seems to be firmly in the Kenney camp.

On at least one occasion, Parents for Choice apparently has received funding from the Manning Centre, Reform Party founder Preston Manning’s Calgary-based training school for right-wing activists.

Mr. Byfield was there at the start of the Reform Party in 1987, standing with Mr. Manning, son of Social Credit premier Ernest Manning, splitting the Canadian conservative movement asunder.

So there is a kind of illogical consistency in Mr. Byfield’s attack on Mr. Eggen, in that he blames the progressive wing of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Party, and not the Reform Party wannabes who first bankrolled the Wildrose Party, for creating the division on the right he believes got the NDP elected!

Therefore the Alberta right must be reunited, he concludes, presumably hoping it can be done on terms congenial to Mr. Byfield’s Reform-Wildrose mentality and without a hint of progressivism.

Which leads naturally to this latter-day Jeremiah’s enthusiastic support for Mr. Kenney, the man poised to lead Alberta Forward to the Fifties … when God was still in His heaven and Social Credit still in government in Alberta, the elder Mr. Manning at its head.

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    1. You know, “God’s in His heaven and all’s right with the world.” Unless your problem is the italics over His.

  1. Oh God, or if one prefers small “g” god depending on one’ religious views; it is horrifying that Ted Byfield has reared his ugly head, along with his thoughts into Alberta’s body politic again.

    I remember The Alberta Report magazine growing up as kid and being from small town Alberta this publication was next as sacred to the Bible in almost all of the townsfolk’s home.

    Mr. Byfield feels that this will probably be his last chance to influence Alberta’s political landscape before Jason Kenney tries to destroy the PC Party of Alberta and along with Brian Jean’s eventual dismissal as the leader of the Wildrose Party.

    Ted Byfield presents himself as the elder statesmen of the one and only epitome of what a pure conservative should be. A narrow definition of a white privileged, born again Christian male, whose authority is not to be questioned by his wife, children, or any one else who is not a WASP, and definitely not a by a black man who was elected twice as President of the United States of America.

    However, the current President is ok with him because he see’s in Donald Trump the mirror image of himself. But this image is skewed with uncomfortable deep seated insecure hatred for oneself. When Ted Byfield does pass from this mortal earth, His epitaph will be “He Hated”.

    1. I don’t know if it would be fair to describe Mr. Byfield as thinking of himself as “born again,” a concept associated with evangelical Protestantism. According to online sources he started out as an Anglican, presumably of the Anglo-Catholic variety, and I recall reading in one of his publications some years ago that he had adopted an Orthodox congregation. DJC

  2. As one of Mr. Eggen’s former students, another irony is that I can not think of any teacher less likely to have suffered student’s taunts. He commanded the respect of everyone in his classrooms.

  3. Have you ever reflected on the curious dichotomy between the right’s attitude towards public health care and public education? In health care, they are forever ranting that there are too many administrators and the system doesn’t listen to health care professionals (when in fact, most health system administrators are also health professionals who have risen from the ranks and gained advanced education along the way); but in education, they try to tell professional educators, many with graduate degrees in education, how to run our school system, often with little more evidence backing them up than the anecdotal reports on their own or their children’s experiences.

  4. Hi David

    I think Anon above was pointing out a typo, is all. Curiously, there is one sentence with an extra ‘in’ and one sentence missing an ‘in’.
    “As he summed it up recently in in two words in a newly launched blog…”
    “…when God was still His heaven …”
    Good article. I have enjoyed disagreeing with Mr. Byfield over the years. Thank you.

      1. That’s the problem with a one man show, difficult to completely proof read your own stuff even with a self imposed deadline.

        Interesting take on Ol’ Ted. Born again? Not born again? Either way he’ll likely ascend to heaven and sit at God’s right hand along with his pal Preston.

  5. Ted isn’t going to blame the Wildrose Party for anything.

    Link helped found the Wildrose Party. Besmirch the memory of his son? I don’t think so.

  6. I did enjoy Ab Report. Who can forget the story about the pilgrimage of the faithful to see Jesus manifesting in the grease on a kitchen wall in rural Alberta, or the wonderfully illogical editorials that were so useful as negative examples in Logic classes? And how about all those manly men of the “St. John’s school for terrifying little boys?”

    Mr. Byfield has a deep appreciation of human flaws and frailties but sadly only saw one way to address his temptations and was all too ready to see his way enforced on the rest of us. No wonder Mr. Kenney is his cup of tea.

  7. I thought Byfield retired several years ago – I guess he’s back!! (for a bit). In some ways I miss his relatively clear social conservative ideology, as opposed to the current social conservatives politicians who know their message does not sell so well and try to hide it and hope the voters will elect them, not fully realizing what they really want to do. At least he was somewhat clearer about his ideas and positions.

    However the current social conservative politicians try to hide it, there are subtle signs of a true social conservative. One of them is getting the support of someone like Byfield, perhaps the ultimate Alberta unrepentant social conservative.

  8. ;I haven’t seen the Byfield post you refer to, but the part where Byfield goes on about the pronunciation of David Eggen’s name epitomizes what is most disgusting about the right wing. The ease with which they fall into petty mean spirited attacks on something trivial like a person’s name, says everything about their intellectual depth.

    It’s not about truth…or even honest debate; At some level its always about trashing their opponents, in whatever way they can. It is what marks their history as school yard bullies, grown old without growing up. If there is one thing I hope David Eggen does with his curriculum overhaul, it is to ensure that the next generation of our young people learn that being mean, making fun of those who they see as different, or wrong somehow, is unacceptable. in a pluralistic society.

    In that regard, I applaud the courage of the NDP government in supporting the rights of our LBGT young people.
    Parents for Choice are more concerned with maintaining the right of their religious beliefs to trump safety and inclusion for all our young….then they are about choice. You don’t have to listen to them talk about their traditional notions of gender for too long to figure that out.

  9. People like Byfield and Manning seem to overlook two things about Alberta politics.

    First off Alberta demographics have thankfully changed from the early 60’s. The influx of well educated, well travelled folks with different backgrounds has changed our province for the better.

    Second, fewer women voters now follow the political and voting direction of their spouses or heaven forbid their Pastors, faith leaders when it comes to voting. They can think for themselves. Indeed, in some university faculties female grads are outnumbering male

    My spouse comes from a very right wing, conservative family. Even she would never consider voting for a Kenney or a Jean..or their respective parties. Not because of the personally but because of the seemingly high degree of influence that this right wing group has within both parties and on both Kenney and Jean.

  10. My wife is a retired teacher who had to reply to Ted after she read his blog. Her reply awaiting moderation there. In case he moderates it out of sight, I’m reproducing it here. I think it’s worth sharing.

    Mary Nokleby
    JANUARY 31, 2017 AT 11:34 AM
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Much of this post is fear mongering nonsense. As a retired high school teacher, who taught in this province under Conservative management, I know how much public or expert input Klein and his successors sought from qualified educators. They spent millions on testing what they didn’t teach, on paper bullying teachers with centralized exams that wasted time and money………and in many cases, distracted educators from their real business of learning.

    And they did this for reasons of CONTROL. That and I suspect they had conservative educators who wanted a leg up….out of the classroom and into something important like crafting government exams to discipline teachers.

    I supervised grade 12 students sitting the stupid things….I marked them…I sat in their little standardizing groups making sure that the perceived brights got the right marks…..and any lucky guesses by the perceived dumbs got eliminated.

    It was mostly junk science, which is what the right prefers…..and it certainly rewarded the mediocre middle. It also rewarded mediocre teachers, teaching to the tests instead of to the children.

    But politics and ideology aside….curriculum has to be revised and updated. The world doesn’t stand still, even if Mr. Byfield would prefer that. And it takes many people to do it…as any teacher who’s waded through those old conservative curriculums will know. Twelve grades Ted. Four core subjects. And what few options the conservative contempt for the arts have left in place.

    Make fun of David Eggen if you must….its the conservative substitute for real discussion; but don’t tell educators about the two worlds they must keep separate. I had one rule: Never lie to a child. And one manner of interaction: Loving respect for the person each young person was.

    We should try the same methods in the adult world, even if there, it seems to often fall on deaf ears and rusty old minds.

  11. We still have those who live in the past and seeming want to structure our education system based upon their values/beliefs instead of the requirements that a student needs to enter and be successful in whatever form of secondary education/training they select. Ask any senior high teacher about the challenges they encounter with students coming through the 1-10 Chrisrian schools. Biggest issue is critical thing..most especially in the English programs. These students have never been taught to think critically and it shows. This is. Challenge for those going on to university.

    I was recently asked why I was no t in favour of religion or the Lords Prayer in the public education system. Two reasons. The first is that is is public. Funded and designed for people of all faiths. Secondly, I grew up in an area with a large Jewish population. In some instances 25 percent of the students in s classroom. Theses students were singled out when they were told they could absent themselves from the classroom. Fortunately the nonsense ended (in the early 60’s) and the schools focussed on education leaving faith where it belonged…in the home.

    1. Critical thinking is key to a good education, and you are right. My subject was English and as the years passed and Klein’s war on the classroom continued, the number of students coming up from Junior High labelled gifted in English…….who could do nothing more than summarize the plot, began to concern me.

      Having the right answer, or the dominant interpretation to a work of literature…….is a misunderstanding of the interpretive nature of the subject. In math there may not be a variety of perspectives….but in English, if there’s only one right answer, you’re reading a morality piece, not a serious work of fiction.

      That overworked teachers were not taking the time in the intermediate grades to prepare good students to think inside the work was sad. Because many of these students did want to succeed, and were horrified by the C grades I had to give them, until they learned to build an analytic framework for discussing a given piece.

      Christian educators need not be this literal……..but often, their sense of knowing the Word leads them in this direction. Standardized minds and standardized tests aside, there’s nothing educational about rote learning.

      Trouble is: once you allow critical thinking, you have to have mechanisms for accepting a plurality of acceptable readings. The adult in the class has to know how to use critical thinking to assess student ideas….otherwise, why would the students take the risk of having their own ideas about anything?

      One final point: when you do have that kind of teacher at the head of the class, they tend to be less easily intimidated by standardized tests and provincially set standards. I hope David Eggen is updating the curriculum to encourage more of those master educators. Not sure that’s what Byfield has in mind though….opening the minds of the young could be quite dangerous to conservative ideology, after all.

  12. I always enjoyed reading the Alberta Report and for that matter what Ted Byfield wrote. One has to keep in mind all news you read has the editorial slant of the writer and Ted’s outlook was very clear.

    As a farmer I tend to support political views that believe in running small or no deficits. After farming for 35 years and dealing with the ups and downs that markets and weather create in one’s income I try to follow a few rules. I don’t go into debt for recreation, I have worked hard to eliminate all my debt on depreciable assets and now my goal is to only finance appreciable assets like land. In the last 2 years what I recieve for my calves has declined 31% so I am very thankful that I have less monthly payments to make than I did in years past.

    When I hear that the Wildrose party is a party of rural values and out of touch or that they live in the past and then I look at our present free spending large deficit running government I just shake my head. One big complaint of NDP supporters is that they haven’t funded 25 dollar a day daycare. Nobody will like my opinion on this, comparing this to my own financial rules, this is not a necessity and shouldn’t be funded with borrowed money. Universal access to healthcare is a necessity, universal access to inexpensive childcare is not. In Alberta when it is cold 6 months of the year electricity and heat are a necessity, subsidizing solar panels and giving out free led light bulbs is not. If this makes me a political dinosaur so be it.

    1. Well said Farmer B. Our wants are somehow turning into needs and the gov’t is supposed provide these new “needs”.

    2. Farmer B, we had forty years of the PC party’s procyclical fiscal policy and all we got was an amplification of the boom – bust cycle inherent in resource economies. Premier Notley and the New Democrats are using what is called counter cyclical policy. Instead of the vicious, inhumane austerity measures we had when Klein, et. al., were in charge we see an attempt to use the government purse to help people rather that international corporations.
      I bet you don’t have to pay the outrageous fees families have to pay for day care in these times. These days most families need two wage earners to get by. (Thanks to decades of attacks on organized labour and the movement of jobs to countries where capitalists find it easier to exploit workers.) But in many cases the wages of one parent are largely consumed by day care fees. So we’ve built a treadmill that working poor people can’t get off of without help. Surely we can find it in our flinty hearts to do something for those families.

      1. If governments truly adhered to Keynesian economic theory by using deficit financing during times of negative economic growth and then when growth returns increasing taxes enough to pay off that deficit and create a surplus in preparation for the next downturn I might agree with you. In Alberta we still need to decide if we are happy with our current level of government services and spending and if we are raise taxes enough to pay for them. If on the other hand we feel our level of taxation is already at its limit then we must decrease the cost of government.

        To answer you question on daycare, my youngest is in her 20’s so no I don’t pay day care. When my kids were young I was fortunate enough that my wife worked with me on the farm and we didn’t require day care. As for my flinty heart, there is certainly more support in it for subsidizing those with lower income to help them afford daycare than there is for subsidizing solar panels. It would do far more to help those in lower income brackets. That is why I have always felt a true sales tax was more appropriate than a energy sales tax masquerading as a carbon tax!!

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