Manitoba Natural Resources Minister Scott Fielding leaves politics for private sector

WINNIPEG — Manitoba's natural resources minister stepped down from cabinet Monday and said he would resign his legislature seat within two weeks.

Scott Fielding, also minister responsible for liquor and lotteries, is going to pursue opportunities in the private sector, a government news release said. It did not provide details.

"Public service is extremely important but also means making great sacrifices to family life," Fielding wrote in a social media post.

"I really am looking forward to spending more quality time with my family and friends as I start a new chapter in my life."

Fielding was shuffled out of the finance portfolio five months ago in a move widely seen as a demotion. His decision comes 16 months before the next scheduled provincial election and at a time when the governing Progressive Conservatives have been trailing the Opposition New Democrats in opinion polls.

The timing is surprising, one political analyst said, because many politicians would simply serve out their term and not seek re-election.

"Resigning your ministry and your seat entirely this close to an election, that is a little surprising" said Royce Koop, who teaches political studies at the University of Manitoba.

Koop said there are several possible reasons behind Fielding's decision, including a good job offer outside politics.

"Actually leaving — vacating a seat — that's unusual. And it does suggest that something is happening here beyond the kind of strategic calculations that we would normally expect to see from people with an election a year away."

Premier Heather Stefanson thanked Fielding for his years in the legislature and said he handled a variety of challenging portfolios.

His cabinet duties will be handled temporarily by Indigenous Reconciliation Minister Alan Lagimodiere.

Fielding's resignation means a byelection must be held before the end of the year in his Kirkfield Park constituency in west Winnipeg.

Fielding served on Winnipeg city council from 2006 to 2014. He was elected to the legislature in 2016 as part of a Tory wave that saw the party win 40 of 57 seats. Then-premier Brian Pallister put him in cabinet as families minister and gave him the finance portfolio two years later.

Fielding cut the provincial sales tax in 2019 and produced the first balanced budget in a decade, but the COVID-19 pandemic drove Manitoba's finances back into the red.

After Stefanson took over as premier last November, she moved Fielding to natural resources and northern development as part of a cabinet shuffle in January involving several ministers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 6, 2022.

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press