Getting ahead of themselves?

Jessica McDonald, a senior civil servant in the premier's office, has been put in charge of sketching out what the provincial bureaucracy will look like under a second Liberal mandate, Public Eye has learned. According to a memo signed by the premier's deputy minister Ken Dobell (and leaked to us), Ms. McDonald will "take on a new role to lead a broad examination and evaluation of government operations across all ministries and the Crown corporations in light of new circumstances and new priorities. This work will in part lead to changes in the strategic and service planning process for the 06/07 and subsequent years." She will also be responsible for carrying out those changes.

Ms. McDonald, who is married to former caucus communications director Mike McDonald, will continue to have overall responsibility for the government's resource and environmental ministries. But she'll now be one of three deputy ministers reporting directly to the premier, along with Ken Dobell, the head of the public service, and Brenda Eaton.

Bureaucrats have long stood in slack-jawed, drool-mouthed awe at the talented and respected Ms. McDonald's rapid career advancement. After all, it seems like it was only yesterday (1997 to be exact) that she was promoted to manager of land programs in the Crown land branch of the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks. One year later, Ms. McDonald left government to setup Tupelo Consulting Inc., a public land management consulting company.

She remained there until the premier's office hired her in November 2003 as deputy minister of special projects, focusing on government's management of natural resource and environmental issues. But her authority quickly swelled. And now this memo suggests Ms. McDonald could be well-positioned to succeed Mr. Dobell when he retires (with the date of that momentous event being the subject of the third most popular guessing game in provincial politics). The following is a copy of that document.

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Office of the Premier

MEMORANDUM

TO: Deputy Ministers
DATE: September 27, 2004
RE: Premier's Office Organization and Roles

Over the past few weeks, the Premier has provided direction on a new alignment of responsibilities in the Premier's Office to continue innovation and leadership in the management of government business. To this end, he has modified the Deputy Minister roles in the Premier's office as set out in this memo. We hope that the revised roles will provide clarity, as well as provide effective management and support for Ministries.

* Jessica will now report directly to the Premier and her title will change to reflect that she is Deputy to the Premier. Jessica will continue to be the lead Deputy for resource and environmental ministries. She will also take on a new role to lead a broad examination and evaluation of government operations (including core responsibilities, planning, decision processes, organizational structure and service delivery, and the public service) across all ministries and the Crown corporations in light of new circumstances and new priorities.

This work will in part lead to changes in the strategic and service planning process for the 06/07 and subsequent years, and the responsibility for overseeing those processes will rest with Jessica. Overall, the breadth of this new assignment will require a high level of participation from Brenda and me, and we are committed to ensuring that this work is carried forward in a collaborative and coherent manner.

* Brenda's primary role over the next several months will be to identify policy and program priorities for potential development over the medium and long term. Obviously, in that role she will overlap and interact with Jessica and me in a significant way, and will also look for your assistance in developing new program proposals.

* I will continue to be the primary contact in the Premier's Office for the social and "mechanics of government" ministries; and will maintain my role as Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Public Service. In that role, I will be available to all Deputy Ministers when they believe that would be appropriate.

* Joy will maintain her role as Deputy Cabinet Secretary. Kathryn Dawson will continue to oversee legislation and support me in my work with Ministries, but will also provide support to Jessica in her new role.

As always, we will rely on Deputy Ministers for advice and input, and I look forward to your ongoing support.

Ken Dobell
Deputy Minister to the Premier
and Cabinet Secretary

1 Comment

Gee - a plethora of upperly mobile women in the Premier's Office. I wonder why there aren't any more around the Cabinet table?

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