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Bernard the Roughneck enters Alberta election

Neal Bernard Hancock, better known as "Bernard the Roughneck," is now the Freedom Conservative Party candidate in Grande Prairie. Photo: David J. Climenhaga.

The good news for Alberta's Freedom Conservative Party is that it's recruited a national figure as one of its candidates.

The bad news for the FCP may be the national figure in question is Neal Bernard Hancock, better known as "Bernard the Roughneck."

A three-paragraph news story on Hancock's nomination appeared on the Everything GP online news site yesterday, with a quote from FCP Leader and sole MLA Derek Fildebrandt saying he is excited by the nomination and expressing the hope "Bernard will be a strong voice for the people of Grande Prairie, and I look forward to serving with him in the Alberta Legislature."

The 30-something Hancock first appeared on the national scene in September 2016, when he showed up on Parliament Hill dressed in coveralls and a hardhat, complete with streaks of grime on his face as if he'd just wandered in from an oil-drilling rig in the middle of Wellington Street.

He was in the company of Mark Scholz, the media-savvy president of the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, a man long associated with Alberta's Wildrose Party and one of the brains behind the online Oil Respect campaign. Also there for the photo op was Lakeland Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs, former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith's chief of staff from 2010 to 2012.

The event went swimmingly for all participants. Media lapped it up when Hancock said, "I'm not a guy from Calgary in a suit; I'm not a guy who's knowledgeable about public policy or the processes that go on in buildings like this; I'm a roughneck…"

Within a few days, though, it was revealed Hancock was a talented amateur thespian who had majored in media, communications, history and political studies at Bishop's University in Quebec.

By November, according to his own account, Hancock was Bernard the ex-roughneck, no longer working in that field. Since then, he seems not to have taken part in another CAODC stunt. For a spell it wasn't clear where he resided.

Since then, Hancock has shown up here and there, posing for photos with friendly politicians, appearing near ones likely to be less friendly to him, but generally fading from public consciousness.

Well, no more. "Bernard the Roughneck" is back, an official candidate of an official political party.

Notwithstanding Hancock's tendency to say exactly whatever he thinks a little more bluntly than the art of politics demands, Fildebrandt reassured me yesterday he has no worries about his party's newest candidate staying on message during the election campaign.

"Our candidates are not trained seals," Fildebrandt explained. "They are free to speak their minds and vote freely if elected. Candidates don't have to be a brain-clone of the leader."

That said, Fildebrandt himself had a bit of a reputation as a loose cannon back in the days when he was a member of the Wildrose and UCP caucuses. Former Wildrose leader Brian Jean tried to fire him from that party, and Opposition Leader Jason Kenney succeeded where Jean had failed and sent the Strathmore-Brooks MLA packing from the UCP Caucus last year.

Hancock won the nomination by acclamation.

In response to questions about whether he was now living in Grande Prairie and where he's working, Hancock told your blogger, among other things: "Piss off."

So what happens if Fildebrandt loses on April 16 and the good voters of Grande Prairie elect Hancock? He becomes the acting leader of the FCP, right?

Mr. Fildebrandt also launched the FCP's campaign yesterday, saying the fringe party will have about 30 candidates. He has pledged not to run candidates in seats the NDP has a chance of winning.

There will be an all-candidates' meeting in the Grande Prairie on April 9. It should be fun.

Everybody does it, Kenney claims of Kamikaze mischief, appalling former PC candidates

You have to admit it was pretty bold of Opposition Leader Jason Kenney, under attack for having his United Conservative Party leadership campaign cooperate closely for months in 2017 with the "Kamikaze Campaign" of candidate Jeff Callaway, to accuse Stephen Khan, Byron Nelson and Richard Starke of doing the same thing in the Progressive Conservative leadership race Kenney also won earlier that year.

I don't know Nelson, a Calgary lawyer, but I do know both Khan and Starke, and while I respectfully differ with their conservative views, they are two of the finest people I have met in politics and both are old-fashioned gentlemen of a sort that has apparently gone out of style in the politics of the right.

Anyone who knows them would have trouble believing Kenney's claims, apparently made as an excuse for his own campaign excesses on the grounds everybody does it. Well, we all know what our mamas had to say about that!

Starke, former MLA for Vermilion-Lloydminster who was the only remaining PC in the House until the election writ dropped, described the Opposition leader's claim as "absolutely false" and "totally ridiculous."

"I'm a private citizen, I'm done," Starke, a veterinarian, told the Edmonton Journal. "But if something is said that involves me in a lie, I'm going to call it out."

I'm sorry to have to point out to you, dear readers, that that's a politely old-fashioned way to call Kenney a liar.

Khan, who was the MLA for St. Albert before the 2015 election and briefly a minister in Alison Redford's cabinet, told the Journal, "three of us were each trying to win, unequivocally."

He went on to describe the Kenney-Callaway Kamikaze Conspiracy revealed in a cache of leaked emails as something that "reaches far beyond diabolically dirty political tricks."

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.  

Photo: David J. Climenhaga

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