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I Decision-Making Process
The decision-making process in Nova Scotia rests with the Premier and the Executive Council (Cabinet). The Executive Council is comprised of 12 members, including the Premier. Aside from their ministerial responsibilities, members of the Executive Council are responsible for other duties that are prescribed by statute.
The formal decision-making process is essentially an executive function. It does not formally involve backbench members, but caucus gets a thorough briefing on decisions that have been taken by Cabinet before their announcement and often the Premier asks that caucus be sounded on sensitive matters before Cabinet makes a decision.
In Nova Scotia, Cabinet is the political forum in which Ministers reach agreements on goals, policies and programs. Cabinet decisions bind all Ministers. The Premier manages the Cabinet decision-making process. He is responsible for establishing the organization and methods of operation of Cabinet and the Priorities and Planning Committee (P&P).
The Nova Scotia Cabinet is comprised of sworn Ministers. Senior departmental officials are sometimes invited to give presentations to Cabinet and Priorities and Planning; while they can answer any questions the Ministers may have, once Ministers enter substantive discussions, departmental officials are asked to leave the meeting.
New initiatives enter the decision-making process through Priorities and Planning. It is in Priorities and Planning that matters are thoroughly discussed, details are settled and recommendations are prepared for Cabinet's consideration.
The Premier also has the flexibility to establish ad hoc committees of the Cabinet in order to deal with specific issues as they arise. These committees are transaction-oriented and of a limited duration.
The Priorities and Planning Committee is comprised of Premier MacLellan, Hon. Manning MacDonald (Chair), Hon. Robert Harrison, Hon. Donald Downe and Hon. James Smith. The committee:
- develops and recommends policies and priorities for the consideration of the Executive Council;
- is responsible for financial management, estimates, revenue, expenditures, financial commitments and monitoring program spending in the public service;
- undertakes strategic planning for the public service;
- rationalizes government service delivery;
- establishes the terms and conditions under which the public service attracts and retains staff;
- coordinates applications of technology to make government work better;
- provides the policy framework on matters relating to the internal operations of the public service in such areas as accounting, audit and evaluation, contracting, real property, procurement, and regulatory affairs for the Government's administrative practices and for its assets; and
- develops a corporate focus on government communications.
There are 52 members in the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia. They are divided among the following party lines:
- 19 Liberals (of whom 12 are in Cabinet);
- 18 New Democrats;
- 14 Progressive Conservatives; and
- 1 Independent.
1. Policy Development
The Deputy Minister to the Premier, who also acts as Deputy Minister of the Priorities and Planning Secretariat, is responsible for assisting the Government in defining its objectives and priorities, for overseeing the development of policies consistent with these priorities, and for liaison on these matters with all other government departments. While the Premier gathers information for policy development from a variety of sources, his main source rests with the Priorities and Planning ecretariat.
Policy analysis and development for intergovernmental relations is provided by the Intergovernmental Affairs branch of the Executive Council Office. The Premier is also Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate. These agencies provide policy analysis and development in their respective fields.
After a proposal has been through the proper research, development and debate channels within the appropriate governmental department or unit, the Legislative Counsel Office is asked to prepare the legislation draft for the Legislation Committee, a committee of caucus. The committee reviews the legislation draft and analyses its policy implications. This will form the basis for its decisions regarding the future of the legislation. The vast majority of issues will go through the Priorities and Planning Committee.
For the most part, each department has a policy division. For instance, the policy development section of the Department of Education and Culture provides a range of policy-related activities for all departmental jurisdictions including research, evaluation, labour market analysis and statistical analysis to address emerging issues and proposed policy or program changes.
II Central Agencies
In Nova Scotia, the Premier and the Cabinet are supported in the exercise of their responsibilities by the Premier's Office and the Executive Council Office, which includes the Clerk of the Executive Council, the Secretary to the Cabinet, Intergovernmental Affairs branch and the Priorities and Planning Secretariat.
1. The Premier's Office
The Premier's Office, comprised of political employees, is headed by a Deputy Minister who acts as Deputy Minister to the Premier, Deputy Minister of the Priorities and Planning Secretariat and Acting Deputy Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.
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.
The Office of the Premier provides administrative support for the Premier, which includes coordinating his agenda, travel and media relations and preparing correspondence. The Office is responsible for providing the Premier with policy and political advice; it also deals with the day-to-day matters in the legislature; and it ensures political liaison with caucus and the party.
2. The Executive Council Office
The Executive Council Office reports directly to the Premier and is headed jointly by the Clerk of the Executive Council and Secretary to the Cabinet. It is both the Cabinet secretariat and the legal advisor to the Cabinet.
The relationship between the Premier's Office and the Executive Council Office is very fluid; meetings are called on an ad hoc and informal basis.
a) Clerk of the Executive Council and Secretary to the Cabinet
The Clerk of the Executive Council and the Secretary to the Cabinet are positions held by different incumbents. The Clerk handles Order in Council appointments, provides legal opinions and advises on technical issues, while the Cabinet Secretary handles the Cabinet agenda, presentations and business, as well as takes Cabinet minutes.
b) Intergovernmental Affairs
The Premier is the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. As the central coordinating agency for the Executive Council in intergovernmental matters, its mission is to preserve and promote the province's interests in relations with other governments. Principal areas of current activity include national unity, promotion of Nova Scotia's interests with the federal, provincial and territorial governments, social policy renewal, relations with the Conference of Atlantic Premiers/Council of Maritime Premiers, the New England Governors'/Eastern Canadian Premiers' Conference and representatives of foreign states.
The staff members, headed by the Acting Deputy Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, research and track issues and cooperate with departments so as to develop intergovernmental policy, handle negotiations with other governments, and brief and advise the Minister, who speaks for the province at conferences at the First Ministers' level.
c) Priorities and Planning Secretariat
An Act to Amend Chapter 376 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Public Service Act as assented to by the Lieutenant Governor 25 November 1993 created the Priorities and Planning Committee of the Executive Council and a Secretariat to support the work of the committee. Effective January 24, 1994, the unproclaimed sections of this statute dealing with the elimination of the Management Board and the transfers of responsibilities to the Priorities and Planning Secretariat received Governor in Council approval.
As the administrative arm of the Priorities and Planning Committee, this Secretariat is headed by a Deputy Minister. Its mandate is dual: to support the Priorities and Planning Committee as a committee of ministers, and to fulfil the statutory responsibilities of a central government agency. The Secretariat is responsible for determining the costing requirements on policy proposals and is a key player in expenditure management.
Its mission is to plan, promote and communicate effective public policy for Nova Scotians. There are three strategic goals and objectives:
- ensuring that policies and plans are consistent with the priorities of the Government;
- making government work better; and
- promoting accountability.
The core functions of the Priorities and Planning Secretariat are planning and coordination; policy analysis; and, communications.
3. The Department of Finance
The mission of the Nova Scotia Department of Finance is to establish a fiscal climate conducive to economic growth and to provide policy direction to and effective management of the province's finances, government procurement, and pensions administration.
There are six strategic goals:
- achieving financial accountability in the management of a provincial budget in compliance with legislation that balances the needs of program funding, debt reduction, and reduced tax burden;
- promoting Nova Scotia's fiscal position, providing for fair and efficient taxation, and promoting economic growth;
- achieving effective money and debt management that, within acceptable risk tolerances, maximizes investments and minimizes debt-servicing costs;
- safeguarding the entitlements of public and private pension plan members in Nova Scotia and facilitating the broadening and portability of pension plan coverage;
- facilitating the cost-effective government procurement of goods and services and the provision of open, fair, and competitive processes that ensure that every Nova Scotia business has fair access to participate in every bid as appropriate; and
- developing an organization that values its clients and its employees.
Its core business functions are:
- financial management: i.e., providing direction to the planning and review of the budget process and preparing the budget documents;
- pension management: regulation of private sector plans and management of the Superannuation and Teachers Pension Plans, including the pay-out of employee pensions;
- policy development: with respect to provincial fiscal and economic activities, various government programs and policies, fiscal management, pensions and procurement and government accountability;
- procurement: providing innovation to and support of the administration of government procurement processes; and
- corporate services: in finance, human resources, and information technology to client departments and agencies.
4. The Department of Human Resources
Previously known as the Civil Service Commission, the Department of Human Resources was established to reflect a more professional public service. Staffing, Compensation, Human Resources Development and Labour Relations are its prime responsibility. Union contracts are also negotiated through this department.
Senior executive positions in the Nova Scotia Civil Service are staffed primarily from within the public service based on experience and past performance. Currently, 11 of 15 (75 per cent) Deputy Ministers have succeeded into their positions from within the Nova Scotia Civil Service through interview/appointment by the Premier.
Below this level, Executive Directors, Directors and Managers are recruited through competition utilizing internal or external processes depending on the specific qualifications and market demand.
Posting and advertising procedures are accomplished through internal and external communication. Internal mechanisms for communication are the government Employment Opportunities Bulletin which is published in-house and distributed by e-mail and hard copy. The Employment Opportunities Bulletin is also posted on the department's website for public access, and is distributed to Human Resources Development Canada Employment Centres. Newspaper and journal advertisements are used externally as necessary.
The interview process is conducted by a panel of senior executives. Second or third interviews are conducted by Deputy Ministers and/or Ministers before final selection. Occasionally, search firms are engaged to assist with and co-ordinate the job search process if the position is particularly difficult to fill. Search firms are used at the discretion of the Deputy Minister of Human Resources and a standing offer exists for this purpose.
a) Staffing and Evaluation of Deputy Ministers
As head of the public service, the Deputy Minister to the Premier is responsible for the overall effectiveness of the public service. As in other jurisdictions, it is the Premier's prerogative to recommend Order in Council appointments to the Lieutenant Governor. The Deputy Minister provides advice to the Premier on these appointments, and more specifically, on the appointment of Deputy Ministers. The Deputy Minister of Human Resources assists with recruitment as required.
In terms of performance evaluations, all members of the Nova Scotia public service are subject to an annual review and where warranted, merit pay has been given. The public service has endured a wage freeze beginning in 1992. Subsequent to the freeze, there was also a three per cent wage roll-back in 1994. The wage freeze was lifted in 1997 and the three per cent restored.
Careers tend to be fostered within one line department. Interdepartmental mobility is becoming a priority in the Nova Scotia public service and is the subject of a performance secondment model now being developed as well as complementary changes to the collective agreements in the last round of bargaining.
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