"I will always remember Jane as a strong, smart and fair woman who brought passion and professionalism to every task she took on," Dexter said in the statement.
"She was well-known and well-liked across Nova Scotia because she could be counted on to call things as she saw them. I feel privileged to have known and worked with her during her time in politics.
Purves died of cancer Saturday morning, the statement said.
Jamie Baillie, the leader of Nova Scotia's Progressive Conservatives, said in a statement that Purves served the province with "passion and integrity."
"She will always be remembered for her blunt, forthright and refreshing communications style, which earned the respect of all Nova Scotians," Baillie said in a statement.
Purves started with the Halifax Chronicle Herald in 1974, rising through the ranks to become managing editor before she jumped into provincial politics.
She was elected to the Nova Scotia legislature in 1999 and became a minister in Conservative premier John Hamm's government.
She served as health and education minister before being defeated in the 2003 election.
Purves was editor of the Halifax Daily News briefly after she exited politics.
Hamm said Purves was the kind of person politics needs.
“She was smart. She was dedicated. She was fair. She was not mean-spirited. She was not partisan. (She was) very hard working,” he told the Chronicle Herald in an interview.