In the NWT’s consensus system of government, the Premier and Cabinet are selected by the Members of the Legislative Assembly during a territorial leadership meeting. The Premier is then responsible for assigning portfolios to Cabinet Ministers and establishing mandates based on the priorities of the Legislative Assembly.
The head of government in the Northwest Territories has been referred to as Premier since February of 1994 as a result of an amendment to the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act. Before 1980, the head of government was appointed by the Government of Canada and was referred to as the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories.
The role of Premier includes chairing Cabinet meetings, assigning portfolios to ministers and disciplining ministers. The Premier also develops consensus with other ministers and serves as their spokesperson on matters that do not fall within individual portfolios.
Whether during session of the Legislative Assembly or other times of the year, the Executive Council is responsible for the day-to-day administration of government. In doing so, Ministers work with the whole Caucus, with other Ministers, or as individuals. Throughout the year, they discuss policy, consider new laws, and work on budget estimates. Individually, they are department heads, making sure the laws administered by their departments are enforced.
Administrative department heads, called Deputy Ministers, report directly to the Ministers. It is the Ministers’ responsibility to take the general directions established by the Assembly, develop policies which must be ratified by the Executive Council, make decisions on how the policies are to be put into action and ensure the administration follows through.
Responding to the needs of the public, Ministers introduce legislation relating to their department’s responsibilities. They must answer questions in the Legislative Assembly about their department’s activities and budgets.
The Executive Council has its own internal committees and support branches. There are several special and advisory secretariats for co-ordination and input in areas such as intergovernmental affairs, aboriginal rights and constitutional development, and regional operations.