OLDS, Alta. -- Gordon Kesler and his Western Canada Concept colleagues, successful beyond their dreams in a provincial by-election, have already set their sights on forming the next provincial government.
And in Ottawa the federal politicians, who thought western separatism had died with the solutions to the constitution and energy-pricing disputes, are taking a long hard look at the straight-talking rodeo rider who shocked the established parties Wednesday night.
'I think that realistically, if things don't change, we can certainly form the government in Alberta,' Kesler said with a wide grin Thursday. 'I don't know if that's ambitious or not. I hope that I'm not an ambitious man as we read about in Shakespeare anyway.
'I think (the by-election victory in Olds-Didsbury) was a message for those politicians in our land who are infringing more and more on the rights of individuals to make choices in their lives.
'That new constitution gives (Prime Minister) Pierre Trudeau enough power that he can literally take away everything that you and I have as individuals in this land.'
Kesler met Thursday with WCC officials to plot the party's approach for the March 1 reopening of the legislature when Alberta's newest MLA will take his seat for the first time.
Al Maygard, leader of the fledging political party founded last year to forge a new nation of Canada's four western provinces, said the WCC was prepared at the next provincial general election to field 'a full slate' of candidates.
The party's sights were 'set a little bit higher' than simply forming the next opposition party, he said.
The message of Kesler's 1,200-vote victory was clearly heard in Ottawa, where federal politicians awoke with a shock at the news of the separatist victory.
Minister of State Sen. Jack Austin, the minister who represents British Columbia in the cabinet, called Kesler's win an 'unhappy suprise' and said federal officials should take the victory 'very seriously.'
'I find when somebody is attacking both the federal and provincial governments for national unity and cooperative programs ... it is not a very good omen for the national family,' he said.
'It has to be seen as a way to protest the establishment provincially and even federally,' said Economic Development Minister Sen. Bud Olson, who called for a federal analysis of the victory and said he would report to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
'They voted for anything that would send the greatest shock wave through the system. It's a very loud protest vote ... the provincial and others ought to take very seriously.'
Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed said in Edmonton that governments always have trouble winning byelections when the economy is bad, but lamented grass-roots sentiment in the riding against his handling of the constitutional talks.
'We were so satisfied and pleased with the constitutional result that we considered it a major victory for Alberta,' he said. 'But obviously we haven't communicated it well if opponents can ... twist it in a way that is negative to Alberta.'