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Oilwell Drillers’ Association President Remembers Life Before Energy Politics

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Mark Scholz helped found the precursor to the Wildrose Party and went on to found the CAODC’s “Oil Respect” campaign

BY ALBERTA OIL STAFF

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Mark Scholz

Photograph Rob McMorris

Politics runs in Mark Scholz’s blood. He was a founding member of the Alberta Alliance Party, which later became the modern Wildrose Party, when he was just 17 years old. Today, as the president of the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors (CAODC), he’s the passionate voice of the Canadian drilling and service rig industry. That means he’s an educator to both government and the public on the importance of oil and gas development to the country and to those who depend on it. “Looking back, it certainly has been an interesting career for a small-town boy, having not worked a day on the rigs,” Scholz says.

Growing up in Brooks, Alberta, a major oil and gas community, he says, “I knew the industry was important to my local community because many of my friends’ parents relied on it for a paycheck. In Alberta, like other parts of Western Canada, you can’t help but feel the industry being part of your life. Even if you don’t work directly in the industry, you understand the importance of the sector to the economy and social fabric of the province.”

Scholz entered the political fray when, unlike today, energy issues were not a part of the everyday political talking points. “Federal parties of all political stripes understood the benefits it brought to Canada,” he says. “In fact, it was the [federal Liberal] Chrétien government, in 1997, that put a framework in place to attract the needed investment and create the opportunities of the oil sands.”

In 2002, Scholz helped create the precursor to the Wildrose Party, now the Official Opposition in the Alberta Legislature. “I served on the party’s executive council for about five years where I worked closely with a friend and mentor, Paul Hinman, who later became the leader of the party,” he says. “I served as Paul’s chief of staff in Edmonton, although only for a brief period as the party prepared for the 2008 election.” Scholz also co-chaired Hinman’s 2008 election campaign, something which he says was instrumental in developing his understanding of the oil industry’s struggles under the then-new royalty program introduced by the Progressive Conservative government. The Wildrose alternative was quickly cast as an industry champion. “We attracted the interest of a number of oil and gas service companies that were worried about their businesses,” Scholz says.

During the campaign, Scholz met Duane Mather, former CEO of Nabors Canada, who introduced him to the CAODC and encouraged him to apply for a managerial role after the election. “I am truly indebted to Duane who helped open doors which led me to where I am,” he says. “And today, I continue to work with Duane on the Enform [oil and gas safety association] board of directors.” After almost four years at the CAODC, Scholz became its CEO in 2012, at the age of just 28. “It’s what I love most about the oil and gas industry,” Scholz says. “If you’re willing to work hard and have ambition, you will succeed. I was also fortunate to have a number of key people who believed in me and my potential.”

In February 2016, the CAODC launched its “Oil Respect” campaign, “because of the urgency to fight back against a well-funded and well-organized radical and extreme environmental movement,” Scholz says. “Moreover, it was designed to get our political leaders to champion the industry and market access for our products.”

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