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I Decision-Making Process
The decision-making process in Saskatchewan rests principally with the Cabinet which is composed of the Premier and Ministers of the governing party who hold seats in the Legislative Assembly. Its meetings, by tradition, are chaired by the Premier. The size of the Saskatchewan Cabinet varies depending on the wishes of the Premier. It has had as many as 25 members but currently has 18 Ministers and the Premier. Cabinet is the major decision-making body of government and the forum to which Ministers bring matters whenever they wish input or advice from their colleagues or need the approval of Cabinet to proceed. Cabinet is responsible for determining the government's policies, priorities, legislative agenda and budget; appointing individuals to certain agencies, boards and commissions; initiating, revising or deleting programs; and making decisions regarding other legislative instruments of government such as regulations and orders in council.
Cabinet committees are delegated some of the responsibility for gathering and analysing information and recommending appropriate action. Saskatchewan legally has nine Cabinet committees. These committees have from six to ten members, including the chair and vice-chair. Some of these members are Government MLAs. Any members who are MLAs but not Ministers must take the same oath of confidentiality as Cabinet Ministers. The membership of the Treasury Board and Investment Board is identical. Unlike the other Cabinet committees, the Treasury Board, Investment Board and Crown Investments Corporation (CIC) have some statutory decision-making responsibilities.
The existing Cabinet committees are:
- Planning and Priorities Committee: oversees and coordinates the development of the Government's policy agenda including providing the Premier and Cabinet with advice on medium to long range planning; leadership in policy development on initiatives best managed by central government; corporate recommendations on key policy initiatives; and the integration of policy initiatives; (8, 2)*
- Treasury Board: (required by statute): is responsible for managing the finances of the government, establishing administrative and accounting policy and practices, program evaluation and displaying the organization of government in the Estimates (7);
- Investment Board: (required by statute): is responsible for matters relating to investments made by the executive government. While this is a separate statutory committee, in practice, it meets in conjunction with Treasury Board. The chair simply adjourns the Treasury Board meeting and immediately reconvenes the meeting as a meeting of the Investment Board (7);
- Economic Development Committee: develops economic development policy and strategies for economic development and job creation (6);
- Crown Investments Corporation: (CIC) (required by statute): is the holding company for the Government's commercially viable investments. It is governed by a board of directors which also serves as a Cabinet committee. As the board of a holding company, it is responsible for approving capital allocations. As a Cabinet committee, it provides leadership and support in the use of commercial Crowns and investments as instruments of public policy. All decisions related to the acquisition, divestiture and management of investments are the responsibility of the CIC (6);
- Legislative Review Committee: recommends the legislative agenda to Cabinet; reviews all legislation proposed and recommends its disposition; enforces the Code of Regulatory Conduct as it applies to legislation (6);
- Regulations Review Committee: reviews all regulations which require Cabinet approval; enforces the application of the Code of Regulatory Conduct to regulations; and monitors the progress of regulatory reform (5);
- Orders in Council Review Committee: reviews all proposed orders in council and recommends their disposition to Cabinet (5); and
- Public Sector Bargaining Compensation Committee: manages the implementation of the mandates for public sector collective bargaining and addresses policy matters dealing with compensation of public servants (6).
The chairs, vice-chairs and members of each Cabinet committee are designated by the Premier. While the chairs and vice-chairs must be Ministers, MLAs are occasionally members of the committees. Currently, inclusion of MLAs is usually meant to achieve one or more of the following purposes: as a link to caucus, for example the chair of caucus is a member of the Planning and Priorities Committee; for special expertise, for example an MLA who is a lawyer may be a member of the Legislative Review Committee; to provide a promising MLA with experience prior to a ministerial appointment. Previous administrations have used Legislative Secretaries and frequently assigned them to Cabinet committees in order to lessen the workload of Ministers.
Attendance at Cabinet meetings is restricted. The Deputy Minister to the Premier and Cabinet Secretary attends to observe the discussions, support the Premier, and understand the rationale for the decisions in order to communicate them accurately to officials. The Clerk of the Executive Council and Assistant Cabinet Secretary attends to record the decisions and ensure proper procedures are followed. The Chief of Staff to the Premier attends in order to liaise afterwards with the caucus. Senior officials of the Secretariat to the Treasury Board may attend during the budget preparation to support the Minister of Finance. Occasionally, at the request of the Premier or Cabinet, other officials may attend to provide expertise and advice.
Attendance of officials at Cabinet committee meetings varies depending on the specific committee. The secretary of the committee and policy analyst(s) attend to support the committee chair, record decisions and prepare the minutes for Cabinet. Officials from departments sponsoring a proposal, usually the Deputy Minister and public servants specializing in the subject matter, attend to provide information, answer questions and assist Ministers. Attendance of officials, in addition to the secretariat and departmental staff is as follows:
- Planning and Priorities Committee: Deputy Minister to the Premier and Cabinet Secretary; Chief of Staff to the Premier; Deputy Minister of Finance or designate; and Deputy Minister of Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs.
- Treasury Board: Assistant Deputy Minister of Finance (Expenditures); Executive Director of Economic and Fiscal Policy; Deputy Minister to the Premier and Cabinet Secretary.
- Crown Investments Corporation: Deputy Minister to the Premier and Cabinet Secretary; and Deputy Minister of Finance.
- Public Sector Bargaining Compensation Committee: Deputy Minister of Finance or designate; and President of CIC or designate.
- Legislative Review and Regulation Review Committees: legal advisors and legislative drafters from the Department of Justice; and staff from the House Business and Research Office for legislation.
- Economic Development Committee: Assistant Deputy Minister (Policy); Deputy Minister to the Premier and Cabinet Secretary; Deputy Minister of Finance or designate; President of CIC; and Deputy Ministers of affected economic development departments.
Except for committees with statutory powers that authorize them to make certain decisions, all conclusions of the committees become recommendations to Cabinet and are subject to Cabinet review and decision. Each committee has a secretariat which is usually located in a central agency such as Executive Council, Finance, or the Crown Investments Corporation. The secretariat for the Cabinet Committee on Economic Development is located in the Department of Economic and Co-operative Development. The secretariat for the Public Sector Bargaining Compensation Committee is independent of any department or agency and reports directly to the secretary of the committee. The secretariats to the Cabinet committees therefore are fairly decentralized and are responsible for preparing their respective committee's agendas, managing the committee's meetings, and preparing the committee's minutes.
While the Cabinet committees' secretariats are decentralized and Executive Council has limited formal control of the committees' agendas, informal mechanisms exist to ensure that the Premier retains overall control of the Cabinet agenda. Mechanisms used in Saskatchewan to assist the Cabinet Secretary and Premier to control policy development and Cabinet agendas are meetings of the secretaries to the Cabinet committees with the Cabinet Secretary; joint Cabinet committee meetings; the Cabinet Secretary's briefing meetings with the Premier; the power of the Cabinet Secretary and the Clerk of the Executive Council to withhold items from a Cabinet agenda for further work; and, the integration capabilities of the Policy and Planning Secretariat in Executive Council.
Every Monday morning, the Cabinet Secretary meets with the secretaries of the Cabinet committees to review what policy issues their committees are working on, the agendas for the next committee meetings, when the committees will be ready to bring specific items to Cabinet, and whether there is need for coordination among the committees. At this meeting, the Cabinet Secretary also reviews the agenda for the next Cabinet meeting and provides an opportunity for the secretaries to discuss the policy submissions. These meetings encourage cooperation and teamwork in policy development and synchronization of efforts.
When issues cut across the mandates of more than one committee, the committees hold joint meetings. Such meetings have been held between the Planning and Priorities Committee and the Economic Development Committee; Treasury Board and the Economic Development Committee; Treasury Board, Crown Investments Corporation and the Public Sector Bargaining Compensation Committee; and Crown Investments Corporation and the Economic Development Committee.
The Cabinet Secretary uses two briefing mechanisms to assist the Premier. The first mechanism is briefing prior to each Cabinet meeting of the items on the agenda along with written notes on key agenda items. The second mechanism involves weekly briefings on matters of an emerging nature, which often require anticipatory strategies, preplanning or research and development.
The Policy and Planning Secretariat not only provides direct support to the Cabinet Secretary and Premier by providing them with environmental scans and corporate advice, but also, by undertaking on their behalf, facilitation and mediation activities to bring departments and agencies to a common recommendation. This secretariat promotes understanding of the government's goals and priorities; encourages, supports, and coordinates the development of policy by departments and agencies by acting as a resource, coordinating initiatives that cut across departmental and agency lines, and chairing interdepartmental or interagency committees; and mediating conflicts in policy development among departments and agencies.
The Deputy Minister to the Premier and Cabinet Secretary also chairs the Management Committee of Deputy Ministers (MCDM) which meets on a monthly basis. The Deputy Minister picks the issues, and while 30 minutes of the meeting are usually spent discussing administrative matters, 90 minutes are spent on sectoral areas (e.g., welfare reform), to get a broad, horizontal policy perspective and provide corporate thinking on public policy issues.
Saskatchewan is currently reviewing its entire Cabinet system with a view to streamlining; providing better integration of certain aspects of policy development; making better use of Ministers' time; improving the efficiency of the system; and enhancing the accountability of the Cabinet committees. Consultations with the major participants in the system, including Ministers, secretariats to the committees, Deputy Ministers, the Chief of Staff, and others, are part of this review process. The review is examining the number and type of Cabinet committees required; the mandates of the various committees; the requirements for secretariats and the location of the secretariats; the composition of the committees; the relationships to caucus, caucus committees and the House Strategy Committee; formats of Cabinet documents; and a variety of procedures.
Policy development and implementation is a co-operative process in which Cabinet bears the major responsibility. However, resources are the overriding restriction in policy development and require that public servants thoroughly analyse a variety of options for presentation to their Ministers and Cabinet. Much of government policy is developed at the department level. Departments establish policy development processes within their own departments; propose new policy and amendments to existing policy; consult internally with other government departments and agencies and externally with stakeholders; work through policy and resource issues with the committee secretariats; prepare decision items for the Minister; and provide recommendations and advice to the Minister. Officials in departments also prepare whatever other material is needed for Cabinet committees and Cabinet planning meetings. In addition to providing advice and recommendations to their respective Ministers, Deputy Ministers also provide information and advice to the Premier and Cabinet Secretary.
The Deputy Minister to the Premier and Cabinet Secretary and the Clerk of Executive Council and Assistant Cabinet Secretary prepare Cabinet agendas for the Premier's consideration. They must ensure that adequate advance consultation has occurred, particularly within the relevant central agencies, line departments and among key stakeholders. They also ensure that the appropriate Cabinet committees and interdepartmental committees have reviewed the submission and that outstanding issues have been addressed. Central agencies and the Cabinet Secretary facilitate coordination among departments and committees.
The Deputy Minister to the Premier and Cabinet Secretary and the Clerk of the Executive Council and Assistant Cabinet Secretary attend Cabinet meetings to provide secretariat support, including recording all decisions made. Cabinet meetings often end with a discussion of the "State of the Nation" which is a political discussion and does not result in decisions being made that require recording. Decisions are recorded in the Cabinet minutes and communicated on a confidential basis to the relevant Ministers, heads of departments, agencies and Crown corporations.
There are 58 seats in the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly, divided among the following party lines:
- 40 New Democrats;
- 8 Saskatchewan Party;
- 6 Liberals;
- 3 Independent; and
- 1 vacancy.
The New Democrats form the governing party while the Official Opposition is formed by the Saskatchewan Party. The Saskatchewan Party resulted from a merger between the Conservative MLAs who remained after their party decided to become inactive and some sitting Liberal MLAs who left their party.
II Central Agencies
In Saskatchewan, the Premier and the Cabinet are supported in the exercise of their responsibilities by the Department of Executive Council.
1. The Department of Executive Council
The Deputy Minister to the Premier and Secretary to Cabinet is the most senior official in the Department of Executive Council. As Deputy Minister to the Premier, the incumbent is the senior public servant in executive government. In this capacity, he must keep abreast of the overall goals, priorities and policies of the government, progress being made, emerging issues, and trends and future needs. He must also provide vision and leadership to the public service and champion attitudes, values, and changes which strengthen a professional public service. He draws on the staff of the Executive Council and other central agencies and senior officials throughout government to assist him in these areas.
The Deputy Minister to the Premier also strives to improve the quality of senior management; strengthen relationships between Ministers and Deputy Ministers; ensure the public service has a strong policy capacity; and encourage effective means of achieving corporate goals. To assist him in fulfilling these responsibilities, he obtains advice from the Director of Senior Management Services, the Chair of the Public Service Commission and the Human Resources Management Committee; undertakes disciplined objective setting and performance review exercises with all senior personnel; facilitates opportunities to further develop individuals; provides mandate letters and orientation information to new Ministers and new senior officials; facilitates appointments and mechanisms that will strengthen policy development; and uses forums such as the Management Forums for Deputy Ministers and for Assistant Deputy Ministers and the staff of the Policy and Planning Secretariat to achieve more effective policy and program integration.
The role of the Cabinet Secretary requires the incumbent to ensure that the Cabinet system supports effective and efficient decision-making, and to oversee the work of the Clerk of Executive Council and Assistant Cabinet Secretary and the Director of Machinery of Government with respect to the design and implementation of the system. The Cabinet Secretary is also responsible for encouraging high quality recommendations being brought forward to Cabinet and Cabinet committees and in forums outside of Cabinet such as in issues management teams. The Cabinet Secretary uses the Committee of Cabinet Secretaries, ad hoc committees, briefing meetings with the Premier, and appointments of staff with specific expertise to assist him with these responsibilities.
Almost all positions in Executive Council are staffed by order in council. The mandates of departments, including the Department of Executive Council, are stated in the annual Estimates. The mandate is:
To facilitate and communicate decisions of the Executive Council (Cabinet) by providing research, analysis and policy advice to Cabinet and Cabinet committees, coordinating policy development and government communications and managing Cabinet records. It also provides support to the Premier in his role as head of government, chair of Cabinet and head of the political party with the mandate to govern.
The department is the secretariat to Cabinet and to certain committees designated by the Lieutenant Governor in Council and, when required, to interdepartmental/interagency committees. The department provides administrative support to the Premier and Cabinet Ministers; coordinates and organizes the government's business in the Legislative Assembly and provides research support services for the Premier and Members of the Executive Council. The department is also responsible for setting the standards, rules and procedures for the decision-making system.
The Department of Executive Council has two sections: the Office of the Deputy Minister to the Premier, which is the bureaucratic side, and the Office of the Chief of Staff to the Premier, which is the political side.
The Deputy Minister to the Premier and Cabinet Secretary and the Chief of Staff to the Premier are in contact on a daily basis. This informal consultation system rests on absolute trust between both of them. The incumbents usually meet with the Premier at the same time and deal with issues under the obligation that they are to provide constructive suggestions on how the political and policy agenda can best be meshed.
Cabinet requires political support from the Government caucus on policy issues. During policy development, Ministers may have their departments take policy ideas to a caucus committee for feedback. Ministers may also, on an informal basis, have their department officials discuss potential initiatives with a group of the Minister's colleagues. The Chief of Staff to the Premier attends all Cabinet meetings and liaises with caucus. Legislation is forwarded to the caucus for review after it has been approved by the Legislative Review Committee. Ministers may also take Cabinet decisions from proposals they have sponsored to the relevant caucus committee and through this committee to full caucus for information and approval.
a) The Office of the Deputy Minister to the Premier
The Office of the Deputy Minister to the Premier is comprised of the:
- Deputy Minister's Office;
- Policy and Planning Secretariat;
- Cabinet Secretariat; and
- Administration and Information Systems.
i) Deputy Minister's Office
The Deputy Minister's Office supports the Premier in his roles as Head of Government and Chair of Cabinet and also provides a coordination function between government departments, agencies, Crown corporations and Cabinet. The Office oversees overall government operations; it coordinates the appointments of senior executives for departments and agencies; and it provides executive leadership for government, including chairing the Management Committee of Deputy Ministers. The Deputy Minister to the Premier is the Premier's primary source of advice on the structure of the Cabinet decision-making process.
ii) Policy and Planning Secretariat
The Secretariat acts as support staff to the Cabinet Committee on Planning and Priorities. It promotes mutual understanding of the government's agenda and priorities among departments and agencies. The Secretariat also identifies medium and long term economic and social issues and examines viable approaches and solutions; it coordinates and supports the development and integration of departmental and agency proposals to address major social and economic policy and examines the implementation of priority initiatives and evaluates government's effectiveness in meeting its objectives.
iii) Cabinet Secretariat
The major tasks of the Cabinet Secretariat are to provide administrative support to Cabinet and Cabinet committees, i.e., by organizing meetings, recording minutes of Cabinet and the Legislative Review and Regulations Review Committees, maintaining public records of all orders in council and regulations, coordinating Cabinet meetings with interest groups and the public, and maintaining contracts of senior executives pursuant to The Crown Employment Contracts Act.
iv) Administration and Information Systems
This branch provides human resource services for the department and Cabinet Ministers. These services include information respecting and processing of forms regarding benefits and compensation; preparation of documents to bring into effect certain human resource decisions, and administration of relocation and vehicle policies for senior executives. It is also responsible for the department's annual budget and for providing computer systems support to the department and Minister's offices.
b) The Office of the Chief of Staff to the Premier
The Office of the Chief of Staff to the Premier is comprised of the:
- Chief of Staff's Office;
- Correspondence Unit;
- Itinerary Office;
- Premier's Office;
- Communications Coordination Unit;
- House Business and Research Office; and
- Media Services/Media Relations.
The Chief of Staff is the most senior political advisor to the Premier. The Office is responsible, among other things, for:
- providing political advice to the Premier and Members of the Executive Council;
- liaising between Cabinet and the caucus;
- coordinating, with the Deputy Minister to the Premier, the Premier's itinerary;
- managing the political agenda of the party in the provincial legislature; and
- planning communications and coordinating media relations.
2. The Department of Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs (IAA)
The management of intergovernmental relations in Saskatchewan in the past 15 years has operated through two different organizational models: in a separate department with its own mandate, or as a branch of the Department of Executive Council. Saskatchewan has determined that the most suitable model for today's environment is a separate department, i.e., Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs. The main reasons that prompted the adoption of this separate configuration were the need for a large staff to support all aspects of intergovernmental and Aboriginal affairs and the need to reduce the pressures on Executive Council exerted by the constitutional component.
The mandate of the Department of Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs is to protect and promote Saskatchewan's interests through the strategic management of the province's relations with other governments and their agencies in Canada and abroad. The Department assists in the development, coordination and implementation of the intergovernmental activities of the government's departments and agencies. It is directly responsible for the conduct of the province's policies regarding trade, telecommunications and broadcasting; and constitutional, federal-provincial, and international relations. It manages several interdepartmental international agreements and provides support for the Provincial Secretary. (The Provincial Secretary is responsible for matters relating to official protocol and special events; French language services; Government House and the Office of the Lieutenant Governor; the government website; and local government elections.) The department serves as a window into government for Indian and Métis people, coordinates Aboriginal policies, and manages provincial obligations under the Treaty Land Entitlement Agreements.
3. The Department of Finance
The Minister of Finance is the chair of Treasury Board and the Deputy Minister of Finance is the Secretary of Treasury Board. Cabinet and Treasury Board set the government's fiscal framework. Finance manages the framework and the allocation of resources. Its mandate, as stated in the Estimates, is:
To manage the financing, revenues and expenses of the Government in order to enhance the fiscal strength of the province.
Finance's duties and responsibilities include:
- developing and analysing revenue, expense and economic policies to assist Treasury Board and Cabinet in developing and implementing the Government's fiscal plan;
- managing provincial tax and refund programs, collecting revenues, auditing businesses and providing information and rulings in accordance with legislative requirements;
- administering the Government's central expenditure, payroll and revenue systems and preparing the Government's financial statements and Public Accounts;
- managing the provincial debt and providing an investment managing service for various funds administered by the Government, Crown corporations, and other agencies; and
- administering public sector pension and benefit plans.
4. The Public Service Commission
The Public Service Commission is created as a legal entity separate and independent from executive government. It is the employer for the Saskatchewan government. It is primarily responsible for upholding the principles of merit, equity, fairness, and a professional, independent public service; acting as an appeal tribunal for challenges to the recruitment process; and enforcing the government's Conflict of Interest Guidelines. The Public Service Commission consists of a chairperson and several members. The chairperson is also the permanent head of a central agency, also called the Public Service Commission, which is made up of public servants who provide staff support to the Commissioners. The chairperson works closely with the Deputy Minister to the Premier and Cabinet Secretary to ensure there is coordination between the two roles and their influence on corporate human resource policy.
The Public Service Commission is the Government's manager of much of the human resource function. It provides leadership and policy direction for the human resource function, is responsible for the Government's classification system, and provides a quality control service for staff recruitment. It coordinates the Government's Employment Equity Program and the Employee Family Assistance Program and coordinates various learning and educational programs in support of corporate strategies.
There is more encouragement now for interdepartmental mobility (although there has yet to develop government-wide consensus on the concept). There are internal management level programs for senior executives, and the PSC has a parallel program for the whole public service (except for levels above Associate Deputy Minister). Efforts are made to co-ordinate both programs.
Order-in-council, contract and Crown corporation positions are not within the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission.
a) Appointment of Senior Officials
The appointment of senior officials is based on merit and competency. Knowledge, skills, abilities, education and experience are considered in the selection process.
While it is the Premier's prerogative to appoint Deputy Ministers, Associate Deputy Ministers, and the Clerk of the Executive Council and Assistant Cabinet Secretary, the Deputy Minister to the Premier and Cabinet Secretary is responsible for recommending candidates for his consideration. The Premier makes the final selection. Ministers are not required to be involved in the selection of Deputy Ministers because the Deputies are responsible first to the Premier, and second to the Minister.
Incumbents of these positions are appointed by Order in Council which gives effect to their employment and provides authority for their employment contracts. Order in Council appointments are not strictly used for political appointments. Many Department of Executive Council staff and incumbents of key positions in government departments or agencies are appointed in this manner in order to avoid potential conflicts of interest with unions.
Assistant Deputy Ministers, Executive Directors, and many other senior officials are recruited and selected in the same manner as other permanent staff. The Deputy Minister of the department is responsible for the selection of incumbents of these positions. The Deputy Minister involves the office and staff of the Deputy Minister to the Premier as well as a representative of the Public Service Commission in the selection panels for these positions.
Senior staff of the Premier's and Ministers' offices are selected by the Premier or the Minister for whom they will work. The Chief of Staff may assist in the recruitment and selection processes.
The Deputy Minister of the Premier and Cabinet Secretary reviews the performance of Deputy Ministers, Associate Deputy Ministers, the Clerk of the Executive Council and Assistant Cabinet Secretary, and the staff of his own office.
The Chief of Staff reviews the performances of senior officials in the Premier's Office. The Deputy Ministers are responsible for establishing performance review procedures for their own staff.
c) Merit Pay
Wage freezes were imposed on the Saskatchewan public service for three years, 1991-94. A new performance evaluation system is being developed and should be introduced in the 1999-2000 fiscal year. It will have important consequences for movement within the public service.
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