For those who remember the Daily Show before Jon Stewart had his name attached to the show, Craig Kilborn used to do a segment called "5 Questions."
The segment consisted of asking odd questions that often related to an element in the career of the guest that day. Some questions were poignant, some had virtually no answer in a silly way. The questions and answers were designed to be funny not terribly revealing.
Stephen Harper has his own version of "5 Questions" on the campaign trail. Unlike the Daily Show guests, people are trying to get real answers to tough questions.
Harper will only take 5 questions at each event. This strategy cuts down significantly on follow-up questions, such as news stemming from the Mike Duffy trial. Since Harper is also answering questions in English and French, essentially Harper could be answering the same question in two languages and have that count as 2 different questions. We saw this at the press conference when Harper called the election.
You might be asking, "What if one of the questions is about why you only take 5 questions? Does that count as a question?" Yes, and yes. And that's 2 questions.
Canadian Press reporter Andy Blatchford did recently ask: "Why do you only take five questions at your campaign events?"
"I think you're all very aware of how we've structured our press conferences. This is a long-standing policy, it was cleared with everybody. And what's important to me is that we're able to answer a range of questions on a broad range of subjects. That's why every day I speak to a different topic."
5 questions is not much of a range, especially in 2 languages.
Local reporters get to participate in these events. However, local reporters only get to ask 1 of the 5 questions, and that question has to be local.
At that same press conference where Blatchford spoke up, there were only 4 questions. Craig Kilborn never would have done that. According to the report, there were only 3 national reporters there so only 3 questions were asked.
Harper limiting himself to 5 Questions isn't new in that he did the same thing in 2011. And Harper got a majority from that election.
We are happy to criticize any politician of any party who doesn't answer or severely restricts answering of questions from journalists. And there are times when Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau may take fewer than 5 questions or 0 questions. But there are also times when Mulcair and Trudeau may take more than 5 questions. Elizabeth May would likely enjoy taking more than 5 questions.
The arbitrary nature of 5 Questions was funny when Craig Kilborn. When Stephen Harper does it in an election cycle … again, it's sad for democracy.