Premier's social policy advisor says job 'absolutely not' reward for past Liberal work

After running for the Liberals in the last provincial election, Nicole Kieley starts a new job as a social policy advisor in the premier's office on Monday, a position she says is "absolutely not" a reward for her work with the party, but a hiring based on experience.

Kieley says she has worked with non-profit organizations for more than 20 years, most recently as executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Assault Crisis Centre, and wants her work to do the talking.

"Look at not the amount of time I spent — 30-odd days — within a political campaign, but moreso my background, my education, my skills and experience within 20 years," she said.

"Representing the amount of knowledge, expertise and leadership that is around social policy, it's what I've eaten, breathed and lived through my work and I think that's what you need to focus on."

Kieley ran as the Liberal candidate in Mount Pearl North in the 2019 provincial election, losing to incumbent Progressive Conservative MHA Jim Lester. She also ran for the New Democrats in the district in a 2017 byelection.

Paula Gale/CBC

Conversations with the premier's office about the position started in August, she said, and while Kieley says she thinks the job wasn't posted publicly, she did go through an interview process with the executive and officials in the premier's office.

"[We] talked about my skills, as any sort of normal job interview. You'd talk about your background, what you would see, your vision for such a position and the work that you can offer and contribute to the office and it went from there," said Kieley.

"It was … very different than the public sector, it would be a partisan position … the premier's team would be looking at that."

The job will involve advising the premier on social policy that's being developed, as well as ongoing initiatives with several government departments, Kieley said, developing ways to prevent acute issues, rather than the frontline work she's done in the past.

Politics aside, it's really about getting to work. - Nicole Kieley

"When we look at community, there's a lot of our focus and our resources that go into … ensuring that people are safe and ensuring that there's less violence," she said. 

Kieley said the job is not about a political appointment, but advising on policy that can help people.

"Partisanship aside and politics aside, it's really about getting to work and ensuring that what we focus on, social policy wise, is sound," she said.

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