I suppose it would be both understandable and forgivable if a member of the government – a Cabinet Minister with responsibility for a given Department – was to dodge a direct question from an opposition member once in a blue moon during Question Period to either (a) avoid admitting he or she didn’t know the answer to the question, or (b) reveal information that may embarrass the government.
But sadly, questions asked during daily Question Periods almost always go unanswered. If I was Premier of PEI, this would not be allowed!
During the Fall sitting of the Legislature in 2017, I captured and uploaded to Facebook a different “no answer” response to a different “good question” each day, in a series I titled “Good Question – No Answer.” I provided a short commentary with each video clip, pointing out how the response from government Ministers or the Premier did NOT answer the question that was asked.
When the Fall, 2017 session ended, I created a calendar index for those clips and uploaded them to my website. Click on any link in this calendar and see for yourself how Question Period has become another way government refuses to be open, transparent and accountable:
As Premier of Prince Edward Island I would implement new rules and guidelines to make the Legislative Assembly an open and honest forum where elected MLAs provide direct and honest answers to questions:
- “Question Period” will be renamed “Answer Period.” This renaming will shift the focus from the question being asked to the answer being provided. There would be a shared understanding and clear expectation that honest, appropriate and relevant information will be provided to all questions in the Legislative Assembly to Opposition MLAs and Islanders, at all times, with each and every question asked;
- Government MLAs who are asked questions will be the MLAs required to rise and answer those questions. It is often the case that a minister responsible for a given portfolio – or the Premier – remains seated and mute when asked a question while another MLA who is not responsible for that portfolio or knowledgable about the issue being raised stands to respond;
- Governing MLAs would be reprimanded by the Speaker of the House and instructed to either (a) answer the question asked, or (b) admit they are unable to answer the question, in which case they will be compelled to provide an answer to the question by the next sitting of the House, or provide a reasonable explanation why such an answer can not be provided. Repeated refusals to answer questions will result in consequences to be determined by an all-party legislative committee of the House.