Bernard the Roughneck in his own words: Neal Bernard Hancock responds to his critics

Posted on September 25, 2016, 3:06 am
11 mins

PHOTOS: “Bernard the Roughneck,” Neal Bernard Hancock, addresses the media in Ottawa in this screenshot of the CBC’s tape of his interview. Below: Mr. Hancock at the same event with Mark Scholz, president of the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, David Lefebvre, director of the Quebec Oil and Gas Association (which the CAODC describes as “an association created to encourage dialogue in Quebec about the potential of the province’s emerging oil and gas industry”), and Lakeland Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs. (Photo from Ms. Stubbs’ Facebook page.) Below that: Mr. Hancock, as he appears in his Linkedin profile.

Tout le monde political Alberta is wondering about “Bernard the Roughneck,” the young man in hard hat and boiler suit who appeared on Parliament Hill last Wednesday with what appeared to be streaks of grime on his face to lash the Trudeau Government for, as he put it, listening to the wrong people about the future of Canada’s oil patch.

Describing himself as “just an average roughneck,” Bernard the Roughneck went on to state: “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…” Mainstream media almost swooned.

bernard-stubbsStanding with Mark Scholz, 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, and Conservative Lakeland MP Shannon Stubbs, former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith’s chief of staff from 2010 to 2012 who was about to present a petition demanding Justin Trudeau’s Liberals support the oil industry more vigorously, Bernard the Roughneck complained that “people like me who work in the field feel like we don’t have a voice.”

“The only people who have a say in these issues are not the working class, the average Canadian,” he stated on the Hill. “It’s the special-interest groups, it’s the university professors, it’s the people who don’t have a dog in this race that are influencing this public policy.”

Naturally, such statements were highly controversial, prompting a vigorous back-and-forth on social media between supporters and detractors of the views expressed by Bernard – who turns out to be Neal Bernard Hancock, a graduate of Quebec’s English-language Bishop’s University, from which he has a degree in media and communications, as well as an oil patch worker.

So, how better to cast a little light on these questions than let Mr. Hancock speak for himself? AlbertaPolitics.ca contacted Mr. Hancock by email and his answers to some of the questions raised in the social media debate are reproduced below. They have been lightly edited for length, style and clarity. Longer deletions are indicated by ellipses.

Here are Bernard the Roughneck’s answers in his own words:

Question: Commentary on social media has indicated you are a resident of Vancouver and that you have a couple of jobs in the Vancouver area. Is this correct?

bernardbishopsBernard: I was born and raised in Vancouver and my family lives there. Attended Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, Quebec. But whenever I’ve rigged, I’ve resided in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Work for me slowed down starting in October 2015 (we were one of the lucky ones to have lasted that long). By the time January rolled around, I couldn’t justify continuing to stay in Grande Prairie so far away from family and friends so I came back to Vancouver. I found a job doing concrete cutting and coring, but I was only getting 30-35 hours a week at $20/hour, living with my parents out in Surrey. Not really practical or a way to get ahead. The only job I could really call a career has been in the oil patch.

Question: Could you tell me the nature of your employment, which has been described only vaguely?

Bernard: I’ve worked on rigs on and off for years. Over a 10-year period I’ve worked for many different companies. I’ve worked on rod rigs, mobile singles, mobile doubles and skid doubles. … People say, “If he has worked for so long on the rigs, how come he is still a roughneck?” Because I usually work for nine months to a year and then I have money to travel, attend school, or I naively think that I could get ahead doing anything else. For me the patch had always been so booming, I could come up to GP and get work and save up for what I needed before leaving. It ain’t like this any more. Which is why, right after the National Observer article, my derrick-hand messaged me telling me that our rig has work, and that all the roughnecks they were getting weren’t great and I should come back. So I went back right before Labour Day and began rigging again. It’s so good to be back.

Question: A mainstream media report indicated that you said you had moved to Alberta to do oil patch work in order to pay off your student loans. What did you study, and at what institution?

Bernard: I attended Bishop’s University. Fall 2002-April 2007. I matriculated with a BA in English – Media and Communications studies, with a double minor in History and Political Studies. After this degree was complete was the first times I started rigging. Then in 2011 I returned to Lennoxville and decided I wanted to make my politics minor a major. This is still not quite complete, three credits from finish, but the course I need only gets offered once a year. Plus I ran out of money for school so I just started auditing classes … Finally in the summer 2014, I could no longer justify being a broke joke, my oil money had dried up even working part time jobs out there, and as well I had dreams of law school in the future and knew I’d need money for that and never wanted to take on student debt again. So I returned after three years away from the patch.

Question: A Maclean’s Magazine report about photographer Keith Biggins makes reference to his boyhood friend Neal Hancock. Is this you?

Bernard: Yes. Neal is my first name, Bernard is my middle name. Bernard sounds more earnest, it’s more convenient to have a French name in Québec, and lots of people knew me as Bernard, so when I came back to GP in 2014, I went by Bernard as my professional name. …

Question: How did you come to the attention of the CAODC?

I didn’t come to their attention. They came to my attention because I really loved the non-partisan, fact-based approach that Mark Scholz and John Bayko (communications director) were advocating. I walked into their fancy office tower in my jean jacket and dirty jeans. … I just touched base, and we continued to do our own thing … but we envision the same outcome, which is responsible energy policy that meets the concerns of all Canadians, not just pundits, professors, politicians or eco radicals. … I gave up after the middle of February to May. I spent the summer off social media. Just sat at home with my parents depressed and hopeless. Then I heard about the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain advisory panel to the NEB. There was next to no other supporters at these things, despite the fact that more than half of Canadians have stated they want these things built. … After that … the National Observer did an article. … Right after that came out, first my derrick-hand told me to come back rigging because my rig was going out, and then, right after, John Bayko called me and invited me out to Ottawa to present this petition. … I haven’t taken one dime doing this. The CAODC paid for my flight and a hotel room but I took no honorarium or cash and never have. The “I’m with Bernard” T-shirts from The Rebel were sold with the agreement that some of the proceeds would go to Oil People Helping Oil People, a Brooks, Alberta, based charity. The “Bernard the Roughneck” mugs were also created as a fundraising tool for this charity. I don’t understand why people find it so unbelievable that lots of roughnecks are articulate and well spoken; and that I do this for free because I care so much about how guys and gals in the oil patch need support from the government at the federal and provincial level. …

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

44 Comments to: Bernard the Roughneck in his own words: Neal Bernard Hancock responds to his critics

  1. Tanya

    September 25th, 2016

    I doubt they had trouble finding good roughnecks….. They’re all looking for work. Holes in his story.

    Reply
    • Chris

      September 25th, 2016

      Haha you’ve obviously never worked on a rig? It’s easy to find roughnecks, hard to find good, long term roughnecks!

      Reply
      • Randy Huot

        October 5th, 2016

        yah, the good roughnecks tended to keep working even through the slowdown because their companies made the effort to keep them working even if it was fewer hours. There are lots of mediocre roughnecks available, not so many good ones.

        Reply
        • Dave

          October 6th, 2016

          Bernard the roughneck is more actor and political operative than he is a plain roughneck so I think while there are problems for oil field workers and many of the companies they worked for, this story is more political than anything.

          Reply
    • Derek

      October 9th, 2016

      Yes, its hard to find a good roughneck when its slow or busy. Ive been in patch for over 25 years…roughneck to company man
      A lot of people think they are too good to scrub, wash, take out garbage, mop and sweep up and for a pretty good wage for an entry level position. A lot have their eye on the prize but want to do zero work to get there and get all pissy when the guy that put in the hours, payed attention gets set up before them.
      So what makes a good roughneck… someone that shows up on time, puts in a full days work as a roghneck even though they were a driller before cause work is work. Not many of those anymore.
      There are a lot of guys that got set up to quick cause it was busy, a lot of guys that think they are drillers but in fact just a monkey that makes the yellow things go up and down.

      So there is a big difference between a good roughneck and just a roughneck.

      Reply
  2. PIGL

    September 25th, 2016

    The corporate media: corrupt, or just too dim to know when they’re being played?

    I mean, this guy may have worked the rigs for real, but that does not mean he is not also a political operative; with that education, what else could he be? Nice theatre, though, showing up all mussed and dirty in his rig-pig gear, when by his own admission, he hasn’t worked there for a year or so. How stupid do they think we are? Pretty darn.

    Nice touch about “the non-partisan, fact-based approach that Mark Scholz and John Bayko (communications director) were advocating”. If by “nice” you mean “totally gives the game away”.

    Reply
  3. mike

    September 25th, 2016

    i know of patch workers that retired with no mortgage on their house, cars and investments in ten years
    i’m a little more worried that the current co2 level and average temperature is more than the last 2 million years
    he would look just as good installing wind towers i’m sure
    “1 #Alberta bumper sticker in early ’80s: “Please God let there be another Oil Boom. I promise not to piss it all away next time”

    Reply
    • Val

      September 25th, 2016

      enewable energy is nice thing but efficiency and cost are main obstacle.
      particularly in circumstances, when entire sector is driven exclusively for profit
      by shareholders and private enterprises.

      but we can still dream, isn’t?

      Reply
  4. political ranger

    September 25th, 2016

    this is so tobacco industry
    What a con job! This guy whines and snivels about 35,000 people being out of work. People previously collecting, and spending, 6 figure salaries trashing the land, the water, the air and the communities they operated in. That’s 0.1% of the population of Canada.
    Hardly worth getting fussed about; certainly not worth ruining the country over. Some time in Mommy’s basement, drawing EI might help these jokers learn to manage better.

    Reply
    • Thomas

      September 25th, 2016

      its 100 000 must be nice to be so wealthy or with such a fine job that will never go away on you I can see so far that the Fed and Ab govts are doing such a fine job taking resources out of the equation leaving nothing for some type of income for Canada. oil patch wasnt just Alberta Most people working were from NFLD and the maritimes alot of the construction jobs had many workers from Quebec because there wasnt any and the taxes were killer. But it is absolutely ok to DUMP 8 BILLION LITERS OF RAW SEWAGE INTO THE ST LAWRENCE RIVER with out a thought or protest . idealism is going to destroy this country it has already started.

      Reply
      • political ranger

        September 25th, 2016

        yeah Thomas, he had a petition with 35,000 signatures (little less than that actually)
        spewing raw sewage doesn’t seem to be confined to just Quebec, as you so ably demonstrate
        in any case, because one group or jurisdiction is polluting the environment is not a reason to, or permission for another group or jurisdiction to pollute, regardless of how much money you or a few of yer friends make doing it

        Reply
      • Athabascan

        September 25th, 2016

        “Idealism is going to destroy this country…” WTF?

        Oh, ok then let’s none of us have any idealism then, because Thomas says it is bad. Makes me wonder what Thomas thinks about the evils of ethics, morality, and compassion would do for our country.

        I hope Thomas doesn’t have kids, I shudder to think what he must be teaching them. Idealism is bad? Give me a break!

        Reply
    • Val

      September 25th, 2016

      1. if there was ” trashing the land, the water, the air and the communities they operate in” then you should direct this complaint at political governing bodies such as Federal and Provincial, who by default obligated to allow or not those development at sites and supervise all process, including social and eco aspects.
      employees aren’t decision makers but only performs the work in exchange for material reward.

      2. “That’s 0.1% of the population of Canada” – i hope at least for some time in Canada child labor will be illegal thus oil and gas industry workforce even lesser than your approximation to total population. major employer in Canada is private sector (as of 2015 it’s 11,679.900 comparing to non-productive public sector 3,566.700).
      2015 workforce in O&G consisted of 230 000.
      given that number, 230 000/11 680 000 x 100 = 1,969%
      so roughly 2% seems like not much but there are employment dependencies in which every work position is tight to at least 5~6 other in manufacturing, farming, services, entertainment, healthcare, etc. dismissed 230 000 position will put off job at least another 1 150 000 canadians.
      is that your view of perfect Canada?

      Reply
      • Lulymay

        September 25th, 2016

        Well, given the ReformaCon propensity to put minimal taxes onto the private sector – and corporations in particular – aren’t they supposed to be the generator of jobs? or did I misunderstand your HarperCon heroes? By the way, I’d like some deeper figures, please. Example, how many of those jobs are full time – like say more than 10 to 20 hrs per week. And how many are minimum wage? and how many are held by the frickin’ wonderful TFW program? Sorry, Val, but your pitiful arguments don’t move me one bit!

        Reply
        • Val

          September 26th, 2016

          it wasn’t my intention to move anyone. just an attempt to point out existing status quo
          do i like it? definitely not. i’m not pro-conservative or pro-liberal but rather pro-reasonable without tends to left or right.
          best society is a society with well balanced approach to economical, ecological and social issues, based on previous experience.
          sadly we don’t have it neither in wide socium or political parties. what prevails is a extremes, only black or white, right or left, private or public.

          Reply
    • Expat Albertan

      September 25th, 2016

      This is always the question I ask when formerly well-paid oil sands workers are claiming poverty – where did all that money go? Didn’t you save for a rainy day? Granted, there are people with families and no income, so I feel for them. That said, I lived through two Alberta oil busts and all the old-timers would be conservative with their money, knowing that the goose wouldn’t always be laying golden eggs.

      Reply
      • Matt

        September 27th, 2016

        He wasn’t an Oil Sand worker, did you bother reading the article?

        Reply
  5. Anita Arab

    September 25th, 2016

    I’m interested to know what he thinks “responsible energy policy” looks like. From my point of view, it’s what the Alberta NDP are trying to achieve.

    Reply
    • political ranger

      September 25th, 2016

      Promoting a pipeline that is not needed today and will become a ‘stranded asset’ in less than half it’s productive lifetime is NOT responsible energy policy.
      Setting a GHG emissions ceiling at a ‘limit’ approximately 150% higher than current emissions means a) it will never be reached, and b) the market price of a permit to emit GHG will never be forced (by the market) to rise; neither result can hardly be called responsible energy policy.
      I guess the question is responsible to whom and for what?

      Reply
  6. TENET

    September 25th, 2016

    Bernie and the Wildrose buffoons are transparent.

    Reply
    • PIGL

      September 25th, 2016

      Obvious ploy is obvious.

      Reply
    • Lulymay

      September 25th, 2016

      Sounds like another “Joe the Plumber”. Have the WRs hired Sarah Palin for some much needed help?

      Reply
  7. Dave

    September 25th, 2016

    I took two things from this story.

    First is that college students can’t find suitable work to pay off their student loans. Second regular working people are finding it hard to get decent paying jobs.

    I’m not sure if or what spin he and his supporters are putting into this story.

    One thing we should all note though is that elected politicians are sure looking after themselves whatever else they may be doing on our dime.

    Reply
  8. Farmer B

    September 25th, 2016

    If you look at the deficit projection for Alberta for 2016-2017 it is over 14 billion when you include capital spending. For those of you on the left that dislike oil production how do you propose we close that 14 billion dollar gap between expenses and revenue?

    Reply
    • political ranger

      September 25th, 2016

      Well, if we had 2% inflation that deficit would disappear in about 70 years, add in 2% economic growth and it’s gone in about 35 years. All without paying a nickel, plugged or otherwise.
      Question is how to get to those levels of economic activity. Levels that were normal before the de-regulatory buffons like Klein, Regan and Thatcher sabotaged the economy. Corporate welfare and financial trickery has got us to where we are; it’s past time to stop this nonsense.
      There is no reason to light your hair on fire just because the payola from the petro-corps stops coming; there are any number of productive activities that a farmer or a farming community can get involved in to generate a flourishing local economy. As Confucius would have said, if he had attended a good Ivy League school, “many flourishing local economies makes a flourishing provincial economy”.
      A good place to start is to get back the Canadian Wheat Board, kick the foreign thieves out and start marketing your own crops. Keep that profit at home. Then put the kibosh on the TPP; that’ll keep more profits at home.
      If that’s wetted your appetite for honest, productive work for a Canadian farmer and his community, well I’d recommend having a good read of the Leap Manifesto.

      Reply
    • Maria

      September 25th, 2016

      We certainly should not blame the NDP Government which is trying hard to keep Alberta working as best they can. The blame belongs to the previous government which wasted money in boom times and did not consider the rainy days. I have no problem with the deficit.

      Reply
      • Yvonne

        September 26th, 2016

        I Agee. Albertans have forgotten about the 30% raise the Conserative government gave themselves in 2008. They did give back a small percentage. WOW!!!!! We were in a recession at that time. Paying off the debt and giving each Albertans $400.00 dollars didn’t help balance the books. Talk about mismanagement. Nothing for a rainy day. Some Albertans needed the money, others didn’t. Let’s not also forget the 17 Health Boards that were established only to be made into smaller boards and then done away with completely. How much did these boards cost Albertans. They were a joke. Millions were spent. Many of us save for a rainy day. Many people made BIG money during the boom times and lived high on the hog-big trips, nice toys, etc and now it’s woe is me. For some of us we have been through a few recession. My mother use to say save your money. she was a wise lady.

        Reply
      • Farmer B

        September 26th, 2016

        Maria in the latest Ontario budget they spent 9560 dollars per person. In Alberta’s latest budget we spent 12023 dollars per person. Ontario has a 302 billion dollar deficit and pays 1 billion a month in interest on that debt. Alberta is heading to a 58 billion dollar deficit by 2019. When Alberta reaches a deficit of 93 billion we will have the same per capita debt as Ontario has today. So no I am not ok with the deficit in Alberta.

        Reply
        • Expat Albertan

          September 26th, 2016

          Thing is, deficit reduction is always more political than economic because not all are willing to share in the pain of austerity. Deficit hawks’ interests are usually not threatened with calls for cutbacks. I will believe your (collective) austerity position when you are as willing to, say, put tolls on roads as you are to cut money for education. If the conservative media is any indication, the former is anathema but the latter worth considering.

          Reply
          • Farmer B

            September 27th, 2016

            Actually Expat I believe Albertans should choose, if as an Albertan you are happy with the current level of spending then bring in a sales tax to cover the cost. If as an Albertan you are unwilling to increase taxes then cuts must be made. Those on the left prefer to tax business, the drop in corporate tax revenue over the last year shows this is not a dependable source of government revenue. I simply believe spending today so I can live in comfort and then making my kids pay for it is wrong and very selfish.

  9. Val Jobson

    September 25th, 2016

    So was all that frizzy hair just a wig glued inside his hardhat?

    On a more serious note, he does not provide much information about his Rebel connection. And what’s this?:

    “The “I’m with Bernard” T-shirts from The Rebel were sold with the agreement that some of the proceeds would go to Oil People Helping Oil People…”

    Only “some” of the proceeds? How much is “some?”

    Reply
  10. Ron

    September 25th, 2016

    “Olympic cyclists Jason Kenny and Laura Trott marry”

    who knew?

    Reply
  11. Sam Gunsch

    September 25th, 2016

    Apparently more industry PR in ‘the next 6 weeks’?

    Hancock to a commenter on his FB, below.

    Bernard Hancock – Roughneck I’ll get at ya when I get back to Alberta. There is lots of stuff going on politically in the next 6 weeks that’s in the works and it’s got Notley in its crosshairs.

    Like · Reply · 3 · September 21 at 6:08am · Edited
    https://www.facebook.com/BernardTheRoughneck/?fref=ts

    Reply
  12. Resa

    September 25th, 2016

    Not really convinced he was the best representative they could find. He has a university degree to fall back on. The fact that it’s in media communications makes his whole trip to Ottawa appear less earnest and more set-up. A guy with little to no debt now has to work in Surrey (look at that – he found a job right away!) and has a place to live. Granted it’s with his parents, but he’s not out on the streets. He even says he made his money and went on vacations. Where is the future planning in that? And he really isn’t the typical oil patch worker. No family. No mortgage. No debt. Just wants his 15 mins of fame. He certainly hasn’t helped the cause, but rather made it seem like a joke.

    Reply
  13. Sam Gunsch

    September 25th, 2016

    FWIW
    Energy writer thinks roughneck’s ‘campaign’ is not helped by ‘close association’ with Ezra Levant.

    http://theamericanenergynews.com/markham-on-energy/bernard-roughneck-campaign-needs-polish-new-strategy

    ‘Bernard the Roughneck campaign needs polish, new strategy’

    excerpt: ‘Hancock’s close association with the former Sun News Network buffoon and noted libelist is a black mark, in my opinion.’

    excerpt: Hancock spoke at the CAODC press conference, though he says “mainstream media” hasn’t yet warmed to him. He first came to the Canadian public’s attention after a Rebel Media video interview with him garnered 600,000 views. Regular readers know I am a vocal critic of Ezra Levant and his pseudo-news activism; Hancock’s close association with the former Sun News Network buffoon and noted libelist is a black mark, in my opinion.

    Levant is a rabid booster of the oil and gas industry who appeals to a narrow group of Canadians on the extreme right of the political spectrum. He is the booster equivalent of the equally rabid eco-activists on the extreme left of the political spectrum.

    By Markham Hislop September 22, 2016

    Bernard the Roughneck campaign needs polish, new strategy

    http://theamericanenergynews.com/markham-on-energy/bernard-roughneck-campaign-needs-polish-new-strategy

    Reply
  14. John B.

    September 26th, 2016

    I don’t really mind the dirt and grease that can go with just about any job, but I still can’t stand having to put on filthy coveralls when I start my shift. (I draw the line at working on any pipes or equipment that has ever contained excrement from any source.) This guy hasn’t been on the tools for months and he still hasn’t found the time get his into the laundry basket. He has no class. Since he won’t do it himself, next time he should try to go to work on a job where the company supplies them and has them cleaned professionally. I would have assumed that would normally be the case in Bernard’s line of work.

    Maybe roughnecks don’t mind looking like slobs when they’re not in the midst of the substances, but there’s really no need for it. Then again, maybe they actually like it, or maybe it’s just performance art or a demonstration of a communications course role-playing exercise.

    Reply
    • Northern Loon

      September 26th, 2016

      I was trying to imagine packing a set of dirty coveralls and then putting them on too. Or did he wear them on the plane? Also I suspect that nobody would want to get near him or them as the smell would be pretty intense. I wonder if our friendly roughneck used some theater knowledge to fake the dirt? It would be interesting to get some samples from them to see if it tests more for coffee, tea, shoe polish and some other theatrical trickery.

      Reply
  15. CuJoYYC

    September 26th, 2016

    “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…”

    Um, PolicSci minor and looking to make PoliSci his second major with an eye towards law but he doesn’t know much about public policy? Really? I think not.

    Reply
    • Elaine Tattersall

      September 26th, 2016

      Typical Albertan!!!They cry and lie!!! Learned from the pros(REFORM)..They care nothing about

      the rest of the country or the future of it!!! They do not care about anything but OIL!!! They hide the amount of leaks they do not bother to tell you that most of us do not benefit one bit from it!! Tell them no more pipe lines!!! Find a job in the NEW WORLD so we can catch up to Europe on cleaning up our earth!!! IT IS A MESS!!!

      Reply
  16. Cynicroute

    September 26th, 2016

    “…only getting 30-35 hours a week at $20/hour, living with [his] parents out in Surrey. Not really practical or a way to get ahead.”

    Not really a way to get ahead? So if $20/ hour isn’t livable, what are folks making $15/hour supposed to do?

    Reply
    • Truckerbitch

      September 27th, 2016

      Maybe work on obtaining a few skills so you can get a better paying job. Or just continue living in poverty and throw yourself a pitty party.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (not be published)