02 January 2014

The 2013 SRBP Themes (Part 3) #nlpoli

Government is about making decisions.

In trying to understand what is going on,  how governments make decisions is sometimes more important than what decisions get made.

That’s why SRBP has highlighted things about the structure and organization of government.  The past year was no exception.

Changes in Organization

Early in the year, we discovered that there was No planning and priorities committee  (March 2013) in the Conservative cabinet.  It used to be the executive committee of the cabinet, typically chaired by the Premier, that – as the name implied – set the agenda for the whole of government. 

Cabinet is now down to four committees:  economic policy, social policy, treasury board, and routine matters. The Premier doesn’t sit on any cabinet committees any more.  That certainly makes it seem like she is the figurehead out in front of a coalition and would go a long way to explain why she could be so badly out of step, for example, out of step with the lead minister on free trade talks, as she was in 2013.

The other major change in government in 2013 was the abrupt departure of Jerome Kennedy.  As it seems, a rift over policy lay at the heart of Kennedy’s resignation just as it seems a fundamental difference of opinion on financial policy accompanied a couple of departures during  The 2009 Rift in Cabinet (May 2013) and Loyola Sullivan’s surprise resignation in December 2006 signalled the start of the Conservative’s campaign of overspending that continues to this day.

The other continuing source of interesting changes has been the senior ranks of the public service.  The Conservatives set a new record of changes among the deputy ministers and assistant deputy ministers in 2013 on top of another record number of changes in 2012.

Taken altogether these observations about the changes in government organization go with the tendency of the government to talk more and more about less and less, as the SRBP post Stagnation and decay (May 2013) discussed.

They also fit with the continued emphasis on The importance of appearing earnest (September 2013)

Liberal Renewal

Organization was a key part of the Liberal leadership race that ran through the second half of 2013.  Regardless of which candidate won,  The real renewal (October 2013) for the party came out of the race itself.  The three leading campaigns each developed teams that had experience in running province-wide campaigns. 

They showed how much they’d learned – and how effectively they worked together  - when the Ball, Bennett, and Antle shifted effortlessly from the leadership to the by-election caused by Jerome Kennedy’s resignation.  The defeated the Conservatives handily and, given the Conservative response on election night, much to the Tories’ surprise.