Premier’s office will hire EAs “based on political chops”


The Boss

Premier Dexter’s office is quietly taking a firm hand in the hiring of ministerial executive assistants, insisting the new hires must be chosen for their policy chops.

Officials in the premier’s office will begin interviewing candidates for long-term EA positions next week, replacing the makeshift crew of temporary EAs assigned immediately after the election. The move suggests the Dexter Government could feature a Harperesque degree of central control.

Executive assistants are explicitly political positions tied to a ruling party’s tenure. Each minister gets an EA to help with political aspects of the job, including major constituency issues and partisan concerns related to a minister’s portfolios. They are not to be confused with the eight unpaid ‘ministerial assistant’ positions Dexter handed out Monday as sops to disappointed backbench MLAs who lost out in the 12-person cabinet sweepstakes.

Past governments have given ministers, especially veteran MLAs, wide latitude to put their own good ole boys in EA positions. Not this time, said Communications Director Shawn Fuller in an email to contrarian.

“The premier’s office will coordinate the hiring of permanent EAs and will assign them in consultation with Ministers,” Fuller wrote. “While EAs work directly for a Minister, they report to and are accountable to the premier’s office, which provides political leadership to the government.”

The new government has not advertised the positions. Rather, said Fuller, caucus members, the party office, and party offices in other provinces have all been asked to encourage “qualified and interested people” to apply. The government will only advertise more widely “if we determine that this approach has not garnered enough applications from sufficiently qualified people.”

Fuller lists the criteria for EA positions as:

  • Demonstrated political judgment;
  • Significant political experience;
  • Policy knowledge and experience in specific areas (e.g. health, environment, agriculture, etc.);
  • Knowledge and experience with Nova Scotia politics;
  • Knowledge of government;
  • Knowledge of the NDP; and
  • Very strong interpersonal, written, and verbal communications skills.