What responsibility does an elected official have to answer questions?
The quick, and most probable, answer is none. At least by those politicians.
Elected officials are not our “employees” but they are responsible to their constituents and the wider electorate. That means being as transparent as possible. Some questions, of course, can’t be answered, perhaps for secrecy reasons. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be a response of “I can’t answer that, and here’s why…”
But in general, if an intelligible, informed question can be asked, it deserves the same level of response. The amount of information that needs to be kept secret from a concerned public is vastly smaller than what politicians and bureaucrats have been conditioned to believe.
Recently, Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre called a press conference, with a pre-stated rule of no questions. That would make the media simply a delivery system for whatever he wanted to say.
But really, our job isn’t to simply pass on the news, it’s to help you understand it. We do that by questioning the politicians, gaining a deeper understanding of what they’re trying to accomplish and filling out our stories, rather than just spoon-feeding you their press releases. Even though the news isn’t always what you want to hear, or what politicians want relayed, the importance of a free press to a functioning democracy is undeniable.
The media is also one of the first things attacked by politicians that want complete control over the message. Former U.S. President Donald Trump is a master of that, eroding trust in news sources he wants to suppress while supporting those that support his message.
Ultimately it comes down to what the voters want. Are the voters comfortable with politicians issuing edicts and deciding how much information they are going to provide? Or are voters going to insist on being fully informed and able to participate in setting the direction the government is taking?