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The rise and fall of Canada's only conservative magazine

By J. L. Jackson
web posted July 7, 2003

Where else can you read about the death of the print-only Report magazine -- on the internet, of course.

It seems that the Report’s former reporters, have become internationally famous “bloggers.” They have been writing about the downfall of Canada’s only conservative magazine on their websites as they exited stage right, one by one. Ironically, the Report reporters are all cutting edge conservatives, while the Report’s owners the Byfields, never quite grasped the significance of the internet.

David Frum’s Diary recently mentioned the Report’s passing, but to follow Report magazine’s final death throes one must really visit Free Dominion’s new Canadian conservative blog/pundit/new media list you can follow the Report’s last days, from the Report’s reporters blogs (try saying that three times fast) -- in their own words. Those that put their blood, sweat and tears into the magazine but now with the Report’s doors closing have become “freelancers” like the rest of us. Ezra Levant also has a number of the Report bloggers listed.

I know that I am just one more person in Canada’s heartland where the Report’s demise feels almost like a death in the family. Maybe that is why piling one shovel full of prairie soil after another upon its still fresh grave feels almost sacrilegious.

From the time I was a child, the Alberta Report was an alternative media mainstay in Alberta. You see, where I grew up, a subscription to the Alberta Report was a mandatory requirement of fitting into our community. No, you weren’t forced to buy it, but everyone had a copy of the Alberta Report on their kitchen and coffee tables. Who needs eastern rags like the Macleans and Time, when you had the Alberta Report?

Always, always, always, if you wanted the truth, you turned to the Alberta Report.

I have read many commentaries since the death of the Report magazine June 23rd, 2003. Attempting to figure out exactly what was the final nail in the Report’s coffin -- most have the ring of truth. Liberals and Libertarians, in particular like to blame the “social” conservative content of the magazine for its decline, some even going so far as describing the magazine’s tone in recent years as “shrill”.

In filling a wide chasm that needed filling, it is true the Report may have lost some of the balance between fiscal and social conservatism, but if true, it is only because most Canadian conservative think tanks have generally avoided controversial social issues in pursuit of the easier “economic” sell. If the Report magazine concentrated on more social conservative issues rather than economic, it is because no other media outlet or think tank in Canada has the courage to touch them.

When Ayn Rand examined “tyranny of consensus,” she could have been writing about Canada in 2003. The Report magazine is the only publication in Canada that reported the controversial ongoing issue of late term and partial birth abortions. A highly taboo topic that supposedly does not take place in Canada. Only nurses testify that it does take place, but no one other than the Report seems to want to know or talk about it.

But the Report’s seemingly “shrill” voice from the wilderness is not the reason for the Report’s demise.

In many long-term subscribers opinion, the Report also became too intensely involved in Reform/Alliance internal politics. Rather than straight reporting, the Report seemed to actively take sides. Within the Alliance, the Report magazine seemed to support Day over Manning and then Harper over Day. As alternative media, the Report’s top investigative reporters needed keep their guns aimed at the Liberals. When reporting party politics, it is perhaps wise to be straight up equally critical of all candidates, so as to avoid the impartial pitfalls of becoming a “king-maker.”

But this also was not the reason for the Report’s demise.

The Report reported on the rise and fall of many western regional movements, one of which was the Reform party that is now known as the Canadian Alliance party. Western politics consists of two elements: conservatism and western alienation. And surely, the Report found the regional groove just as easily as it found its conservative legs. It worked, because out west the most conservative people are also the closest to the issues western alienation brings forth.
When the magazine was successful, Ted Byfield was plugged into the western Canadian conservative culture, similar in many ways to the mystical western phenomena known as water witching.

Some old guy walks onto the prairie with a willow branch cut in the shape of a V. He holds the two ends out and all of a sudden the branch completely flips over in his hands. You think, this is really crazy. I must be certifiable to believe, but where he points you dig anyway, and VOILA! Below where he points there is always fresh, sparkling water. You can't quite explain it -- it just is. This is the nature of the western conservative culture, past Reform Leader, Preston Manning, referred to as the "grassroots," and Ted Byfield, has always had his finger on the pulse of the "grassroots" more than any other individual in western Canada. That was the magic of the Report in its time.

But then, western conservative culture is easy to find. It is tangible; you only have to head out to the local parade and sports day or pop by a local town hall meeting to find it. Searching for a national Canadian conservative culture, on the other hand, well now that’s a little more difficult.

It was in seeking the Canadian conservative identity that the Alberta Report dropped Alberta from its title and became the Report magazine alone. Similar to the pitfalls the Reform party has went through in becoming the Alliance, the Report magazine like the political party it mid-wifed, in many ways became inconsistent in its conservative approach when it struck-out east across the prairie.

It seems, once you cross the Manitoba border, centrist populism has a magnetically strong pull.

It is difficult for a national cohesive conservative message to develop in Canada, because of the confederational divide. Over-centralization has become a Liberal government policy that encourages regionalism as a reactive measure of protection against Ottawa’s burgeoning bureaucracy. Divide and conquer remains the Liberals best bet to keep any hope of opposition ever uniting to defeat their long term elected dictatorship.

The main problem being, the Liberals have been entrenched for so long, many Canadian conservatives are hoodwinked into believing Liberal values are Canadian values. I often get the shivers when I hear conservatives refer to “Canadian multi-cultural mosaic” as if affirmative action and federally sponsored pressure groups are conservative policy.

It also seems to be a patriotic, non-American, you must be a “social” Liberal. Yet, opinion polls consistently show Canadians fairly evenly divided on most hot button issues. Canadians today are on a cliff looking into the nihilistic void: hate speech legislation giving homosexuals special status, same-sex marriage, marijuana decriminalization, long gun registration, Kyoto implementation, disturbingly lenient post 9/11 immigration and refugee policy, as well as continued gutting of the Canadian military.

We know there is a western conservative culture. Out west we can see it, touch it, and feel it. But seeking a Canadian national conservative culture has become like the quest for the Holy Grail; an exhaustingly tiresome journey with no end.

How do we find the Canadian conservative culture we need to create an alternative federal government, when we are not even sure it really exists? Being beaten down by Liberal indoctrination has made Canadian conservatives docilely comfortable with process rather than principle.

The question remains, now that the Byfields are out of the picture, if a Canadian conservative culture really does exist will someone other than the Byfields finally be able to find it and capitalize on its existence?

J.L. Jackson, is a freelance writer and conservative activist from Calgary area.

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