Newfoundland and Labrador
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I Decision-Making Process
Cabinet is the political forum in which Ministers reach agreement on goals, policies and programs. The Premier manages the Cabinet process. He establishes the organization and methods of operation of Cabinet and its committees. There are currently six standing committees of Cabinet:
- the Planning and Priorities Committee (6);*
- the Economic Policy Committee (8);
- the Social Policy Committee (8);
- the Routine Matters /Appointments Committee (8);
- the Rural Revitalization Committee (8); and
- the Treasury Board (9).
The Cabinet and its committees are comprised solely of Ministers. While officials often attend meetings of Cabinet committees with their Ministers, officials - other than the Clerk and Deputy Clerk - do not usually attend Cabinet meetings. Officials attend meetings of the Cabinet only when invited by the Premier, at their Minister's request. Officials sometimes give presentations to Cabinet and then answer any questions Ministers may have; however, before Ministers begin substantive discussions, departmental officials leave the meeting.
New initiatives enter the decision-making process through one of the policy committees following interdepartmental discussions. It is in these committees that matters are thoroughly discussed, details are considered, and recommendations are adopted for Cabinet's consideration. Most submissions come before full Cabinet as annex items; as consensus has already been reached in policy committee, this allows Cabinet to move quickly to approve these submissions. Should an item be brought before Cabinet and contentious issues arise, the item is ordinarily sent back to policy committee for further deliberation. Selected items receive more extensive consideration by full Cabinet; this allows Cabinet to apply most of its time to major issues.
A few major projects and initiatives (e.g., aboriginal land claims) are guided by the Planning and Priorities Committee, with periodic reports to full Cabinet. These reports are often in the form of computer presentations (using applications such as PowerPoint).
A regular feature of Cabinet meetings is the "Premier's update". Time is allocated at the outset of each meeting of full Cabinet to allow Ministers to give oral presentations and lead general discussions on timely political issues. No records are kept of these presentations and substantive decisions are rarely taken. Cabinet then turns its attention to written submissions for decision.
From time to time, the Premier establishes ad hoc committees of Cabinet to deal with specific issues. These committees are transaction-oriented and of a limited duration.
Cabinet meets in three "retreats" each year, in February, July and October. These meetings ordinarily consist of one half day for regular Cabinet, one half day for fiscal matters/major updates, one half day for planning for the next four months (e.g., legislative agenda) and one half day for a related series of topics (e.g., demographics and social policy). The Cabinet retreats are linked to the budgetary cycle.
There are 48 members of the House of Assembly; 36 sit on the Government benches, of whom 16 are Ministers.
II Central Agencies
The Premier must sustain the unity of the Cabinet, lead it in maintaining the confidence of the House of Assembly and serve as principal spokesperson to the public. As the authoritative spokesperson on the policies of the Government, the Premier leads the process of setting overall government policy and coordinating initiatives brought forward by Ministers. In carrying out these responsibilities, the Premier relies on a broad base of advice and support, notably from colleagues in Cabinet and caucus. As well, he is supported by his political staff and officials in the Office of the Executive Council. The decision-making process as a whole is supported by central agencies, including the Office of the Executive Council, the Treasury Board Secretariat and the Department of Finance.
1. Office of the Executive Council
The Office of the Executive Council is the Premier's department. It includes the Office of the Premier, Cabinet Secretariat, Intergovernmental Affairs Secretariat, Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat and Communications and Consultation Branch.
The Office of the Executive Council (other than the Office of the Premier) is staffed by public servants. Officers are recruited from line departments and serve in Cabinet Secretariat and Intergovernmental Affairs Secretariat for a limited time, following which they again take up responsibilities in line departments. This rotational policy contributes to personnel development in the public service: officers bring their expertise from earlier responsibilities to their jobs in Executive Council; subsequently, their experience at the centre of government enhances their effectiveness in line departments.
By design, the Office of the Executive Council is a small organization. Its restricted size reflects the need to provide effective support to the Premier without duplicating expertise in other departments or agencies. The essence of its role is coordination.
A close working relationship involving the Office of the Premier, Cabinet Secretariat and the other secretariats within the Office of the Executive Council is essential. The Premier meets daily with both his Chief of Staff and the Clerk of the Executive Council. The Premier's Chief of Staff and the Clerk of the Executive Council work in close collaboration, keeping the other apprised of political, policy, communications and administrative considerations.
At the head of the Office of the Executive Council (other than the Office of the Premier) is the Clerk of the Executive Council and Secretary to the Cabinet. This position encompasses three related roles. As Deputy Minister to the Premier, the Clerk is the senior official reporting to the Premier on all governmental matters. The Clerk receives and transmits instructions from the Premier, and, as the senior official in the Office of the Executive Council, the Clerk coordinates the operation of the secretariats.
The Clerk assists the Premier in setting the Cabinet agenda, arranges meetings of Cabinet, oversees the preparation of briefing materials for the Premier, ensures the records of Cabinet are properly maintained and, under the Premier's guidance, plans Cabinet retreats. The Clerk is also responsible for process in the conduct of Cabinet business and, from time to time, works with Ministers and senior officials on substantive matters on Cabinet's agenda.
The Clerk is also head of the public service. At a Deputy Ministers' breakfast each Friday, there are regular reports from central agencies and line departments. Also, a special issue is chosen for discussion each week. As well, the Clerk meets each week with the Treasury Board Secretary to ensure coordination regarding matters coming before Treasury Board, and to discuss issues of finance and public administration. Deputy Ministers consult the Clerk from time to time on issues where the best course of action is unclear or difficult judgment calls must be made.
a) Office of the Premier
Headed by the Chief of Staff and composed of political staff, the Office of the Premier supports the Premier in carrying out the functions demanded of the head of government, leader of a political party and Member of the House of Assembly. It provides coordination of political staff across government.
The Office of the Premier provides administrative support for the Premier, which includes coordinating the Prime Minister's agenda, travel and media relations, and preparing correspondence. The Office also provides the Premier with policy and political advice, generally on major issues that are likely to attract considerable public attention. The Office also deals with day-to-day matters in the legislature (Cabinet Secretariat deals with planning for the legislative agenda). Finally, the Office liaises with the caucus and the party.
b) Cabinet Secretariat
Cabinet Secretariat plays three principal roles within the Office of the Executive Council: it is the core of the "Premier's department", comprised of officials who work directly for the Premier; it supports the work of Cabinet and its committees; and it coordinates initiatives involving all or several departments.
The Clerk of the Executive Council and Cabinet Secretary is the head of the Premier's department and is responsible for supporting and advising the Premier in the exercise of the Premier's various prerogatives, including: the appointment of senior officials; the establishment of ministerial mandates and standards of conduct; and the organization of government and decision-making processes. (These matters are dealt with in part in the Executive Council Act.) Also, the Premier leads the process of setting general government policy and coordinating initiatives brought forward by Ministers. In carrying out these various responsibilities, the Premier is supported by Cabinet Secretariat.
More specifically, Cabinet Secretariat ensures the Premier and Ministers have complete, timely and consistent information upon which to make decisions on matters coming before Cabinet. The Secretariat works cooperatively with line departments in the development of Cabinet submissions to ensure that all relevant departments or agencies have been consulted, the full range of alternative courses of action have been considered, and proposed policies are complementary to other Government initiatives. The Secretariat will also ensure that consultations with groups outside government take place so that their perspectives are factored into government decision-making. The Secretariat also provides advice on dealing with Cabinet submissions. Advice is provided to the Premier and Cabinet committee chairpersons on agenda items for Cabinet and its committees.
Cabinet Secretariat works with departments and agencies to facilitate effective implementation of Cabinet decisions. Officials of the Secretariat coordinate major Government initiatives which cross departmental lines.
The Secretariat's machinery of government functions focus on the structure of organizations and definition of mandates, but also include other institutional matters, e.g., assisting in the transition when a new administration is formed by advising the out-going and incoming administrations.
Cabinet Secretariat also provides administrative support to Cabinet and its committees: this support includes arranging meetings, setting agendas, distributing documents, and recording and communicating decisions of the Cabinet. As well, the Secretariat is responsible for ensuring Orders in Council and other statutory instruments are prepared and promulgated on a timely basis to give effect to government decisions requiring Lieutenant Governor in Council approval.
The Deputy Clerk of the Executive Council and Associate Secretary to Cabinet assists in the Clerk's responsibilities, including among others: arrangements for Cabinet; maintaining Cabinet records; machinery of government; senior personnel; legislative issues; and dealing with Government House. The Deputy Clerk also serves as the Secretary to the Cabinet Committee on Routine Matters/Appointments. The Deputy Clerk leads Cabinet Secretariat in its day-to-day operations.
The Executive Director of Communications and Consultation, the Director of Administration and the Director of Protocol report to the Clerk. The Communications and Consultation Branch, along with the Premier's Press Secretary, provide communications support to the Premier and coordinate communications across government. The Communications and Consultations Branch and the Administration Division provide common services to all parts of the Office of the Executive Council, as well as to Treasury Board Secretariat and the Department of Finance.
The Assistant Secretary to Cabinet (Economic Policy) and the Assistant Secretary to Cabinet (Social Policy) have parallel responsibilities, serving as Secretary to the Economic Policy Committee of Cabinet and the Social Policy Committee of Cabinet, respectively. The Assistant Secretaries play a key role in assisting the Premier in the coordination of economic and social initiatives. They also serve as Executive Secretaries to two key advisory committees to the Premier, one on social and the other on economic policy.
c) Intergovernmental Affairs Secretariat
Presently, the Premier serves as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and as Minister responsible for Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs. Under the Intergovernmental Affairs Act, the Minister (i.e., the Premier) is responsible for the coordination of relations with other governments. While various Ministers participate in intergovernmental relations, the Premier is responsible for the overall management of relations with other governments. Intergovernmental Affairs Secretariat supports the Premier in these functions.
Intergovernmental Affairs Secretariat is headed by the Deputy Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. The Secretariat has three related roles:
- policy advice and strategic planning related to national unity, the broad federal-provincial agenda, as well as constitutional and legal issues;
- liaison and advice on relations with other provinces, including assessment of provincial priorities, monitoring of policy files with important intergovernmental dimensions, and the renewal of the federation; and
- communications support on issues and initiatives with important federal-provincial implications.
Intergovernmental Affairs Secretariat develops the government's overall intergovernmental strategy and agenda. The Secretariat also develops provincial positions for meetings of First Ministers and provides support to the Premier at such meetings. As well, the Secretariat participates in intergovernmental discussions and in negotiation of federal-provincial agreements.
The Deputy Minister discusses important issues with the Clerk of the Executive Council before bringing them forward for consideration.
d) Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat
The Premier is responsible for policies and programs relating to Aboriginal peoples, including land claims. As well, the Premier has undertaken a special responsibility with respect to Labrador affairs. The Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat supports the Premier with respect to these responsibilities.
The Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat has three principal roles:
- policy and planning on Aboriginal issues;
- comprehensive land claims; and
- policy with respect to Labrador.
The Secretariat leads the Comprehensive Land Claim negotiation teams, as well as other negotiations of bilateral and tripartite agreements involving the federal government and Aboriginal groups. Also, the Secretariat provides advice and assistance to departments undertaking specific negotiations with Aboriginal groups, and developing sector specific strategies which have Aboriginal aspects.
The Secretariat is headed by the Deputy Minister for Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs.
2. Treasury Board and the Department of Finance
The Minister of Finance, who at present also serves as President of Treasury Board, is served by two Deputy Ministers: the Deputy Minister of Finance and the Secretary to Treasury Board.
The Department of Finance tracks revenue from federal and provincial sources, develops tax policy and does economic forecasting. Treasury Board Secretariat manages the estimates process, provides analysis on departmental expenditure proposals, and ensures that global fiscal objectives are met. The Clerk has an important role in process issues relating to Budget making and works with the Secretary to Treasury Board and the Deputy Minister of Finance in working up a proposed budgetary strategy.
Treasury Board Secretariat and Cabinet Secretariat examine budget submissions and provide analysis and advice. Proposals for the Budget are considered by the Minister of Finance and the Premier prior to consideration by full Cabinet. On occasion, the Premier appoints a committee of Ministers, chaired by the Minister of Finance, to focus on certain budget proposals.
Concurrent with the preparation of the estimates, each department prepares an Annual Departmental Plan; these plans are reviewed by Cabinet Secretariat and Treasury Board Secretariat and are considered by the Economic and Social Policy Committees, with final approval by the Planning and Priorities Committee.
3. Public Service Commission
Appointments and promotions in the public service are made pursuant to the Public Service Commission Act. This legislation enshrines the merit principle. The Public Service Commission is an independent body charged with ensuring the merit principle is adhered to. The Commission is headed by a Chair, who holds office during good behaviour and can report directly to the legislature.
The Public Service Commission has delegated authority for staffing to Deputy Ministers. This delegation is subject to conditions established by the Commission; these conditions can be varied by the Commission or (if the Commission were to choose to do so) the delegation could be revoked. While the delegation provides an enhanced role for line departments in staffing decisions, the Commission retains its authority as a tribunal to hear appeals and deal with problems brought forward by public servants.
As in other jurisdictions, it is the Premier's prerogative to recommend Order in Council appointments to the Lieutenant Governor. The Clerk provides advice to the Premier on the appointment of Deputy Ministers and Assistant Deputy Ministers. (These appointments are not subject to the Public Service Commission Act.) Traditionally, these officials were promoted largely from within departments where they had served all or most of their careers. However, this has changed as Deputy Ministers and Assistant Deputy Ministers are now treated as "corporate resources", with value being placed on a variety of experience. A Committee on Executive Development was established in 1998; its mandate includes training, career planning and performance evaluation. This committee is chaired by the Clerk of the Executive Council and includes the Chair of the Public Service Commission, the Secretary of the Treasury Board and three line department Deputy Ministers (chosen by the Clerk) who serve for a one year term.
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