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It can't help oil patch campaign that 'Bernard the Roughneck' appeared in 2014 theatrical production

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Neal Hancock

It turns out the young man who acted last Wednesday as the public face of the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors' press conference in Ottawa has additional experience as an amateur thespian.

Mainstream media, and the CBC in particular, gave credible reviews to Neal Bernard Hancock's performance at the press conference last week, repeatedly airing his statement in the persona of "Bernard the Roughneck" that "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."

Mr. Hancock, 32, is unquestionably a real oil patch worker and he seems sincere in his beliefs.

Nevertheless, it cannot have helped the credibility of the effort by CAODC President Mark Scholz and Lakeland Conservative Member of Parliament Shannon Stubbs to introduce a petition apparently designed put the prime minister in an awkward political spot that it was so quickly revealed their key spokesperson majored in media, communications, history and political studies at Bishop's University in Quebec's Eastern Townships.

Nor can the now-emerging additional revelation that Mr. Hancock had the leading role in a 2014 amateur theatrical company's production in the rural region much help the CAODC's cause.

Google searches by curious social media users turned up the reference to Mr. Hancock's theatrical star turn in a Jan. 14, 2014, advance story by the Journal Regional le Haut-Saint-Francoise, published in Cookshire-Eaton, Que.

The play, William Stone's Leg, written by Eastern Townships playwright Marlene Lowry of Sawyerville and performed in English, tells the story of the first major surgery in Canadian history in which ether was used as an anesthetic. The operation was done in 1847 in the nearby community of Eaton Corner on a young shoemaker, whose leg was amputated.

"The leading roles -- William Stone and his wife Olive Stone -- are played by Neal Hancock and Bethany Rothney," wrote Journal Regional reporter Rachel Garber.

"Hancock is a student at Bishop's University, in his last year in politics," Ms. Garber noted in her story. "He's enthusiastic about his character. 'Will Stone is a boot maker. He's a guy with a sense of humour, considering all that happens to him.'"

A picture accompanying the story shows Mr. Hancock with his co-star in nineteenth-century style garb.

While the paper did not review it, the production, which premiered the next evening in the Sawyerville Community Centre, was a success, Ms. Garber told me in an email yesterday evening. "Yes, the production went ahead as planned, and Neal did a fine job," she wrote.

Funds raised by the performance went to the Eaton Corner Museum.

More recently, Mr. Hancock has shown up at public hearings of the National Energy Board into the Kinder Morgan Pipeline in British Columbia and at the CAODC's press conference in Ottawa dressed in his oilfield work gear, a red hardhat and blue coveralls, where he has been photographed and interviewed by journalists.

The right-wing video commentary site, Rebel Media, has been pushing the Bernard the Roughneck persona hard, marketing mugs and T-shirts with Mr. Hancock's image on them.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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