(Edmonton) Four days after announcing she would not answer questions about her ethics investigation, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said she would limit questions on all other topics.

Ms. Smith announced Friday in Calgary that she would only allow reporters to ask one question at press conferences and would not allow them to ask the traditional follow-up question.

Asked why, she replied, “It’s an election, that’s why.”

“We’re kind of in election mode, so we have a lot of people and we want to answer a lot of questions. »

The election is not officially due to start for two weeks, and Ms. Smith invoked the new rule, not at an event organized by the United Conservative Party of Alberta (UCP), but during a press briefing funded by the government to unveil a new panel of experts to tackle multicultural issues.

The NDP opposition reacted quickly, promising to answer all questions put to it, including follow-up questions.

“Leaders take questions — it’s part of their job,” NDP Leader Rachel Notley said on social media.

Former Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi also spoke out on social media.

“It’s really not right,” Mr. Nenshi said. This was a government announcement, not an election announcement. »

“It’s part of the job to answer questions, even if they are difficult — that’s why I participated in question sessions almost every day. Not responding means you’re hiding something or your staff are afraid of what you’re going to say.”

Some political scientists believe Smith is making the switch to avoid accountability, especially given the recent controversy sparked by her phone call with Art Pawlowski, a street pastor from Calgary, about her upcoming trial.

According to them, follow-up questions addressed to politicians are crucial, as they generally serve to clarify gaps or assumptions, or to question, if necessary, the content of the first answer.

“The follow-up question allows journalists to do two things. It allows them to either repeat (the original question) or, in some cases, challenge the prime minister or politician about inaccuracies or to clarify facts,” explained political scientist Jared Wesley of the University of ‘Alberta.

Wesley said it will be up to voters to decide whether they are concerned about Smith’s one-question policy. This, he said, is a questionable electoral strategy for Ms Smith and her party, the UCP, as polls indicate a close race ahead of the May 29 election and voters question the reliability of Mrs. Smith.

“If you have a liability problem, the solution is not to make yourself less liable. The answer is to make yourself more transparent. And this new policy goes against that,” Wesley continued.

According to him, this decision also opens the door for Ms. Notley to answer all questions from the media in order to restore her image as a reliable and confident leader, while being able to portray Mr. Smith as evasive.

“It feeds into the negative elements of Ms. Smith’s brand image, which is of someone who avoids accountability,” Mr. Wesley said.

According to political scientist Lori Williams, follow-up questions are key to getting the answers voters need, and the new rule fits into a pattern of avoidance on Ms Smith’s part.

“We are witnessing here the latest in a series of attempts by the Prime Minister to avoid answering questions,” said Lori Williams of Mount Royal University in Calgary.

She cited Ms. Smith’s announcement earlier this week that the premier would not answer questions about the investigation into her phone call with Pastor Pawlowski. In this call, Ms. Smith is heard sharing inside information, while offering to make applications on her behalf ahead of her trial related to a protest during the COVID-19 pandemic at the border crossing in Coutts, Alberta.

“It’s becoming a habit associated with this government and this Prime Minister, who have all sorts of reasons not to answer questions, and then say, ironically, that’s the case because it’s about an election,” Ms. Williams said.

“It only increases doubts about trust, instead of building trust in the leader. »

Legal experts said Smith breached the Democratic safeguard that prevents elected officials from interfering in specific court cases like the call with Art Pawlowski.

Ms Smith said she did nothing wrong because it is her job as a politician to speak to her constituents.

Smith’s office said Monday that Ethics Commissioner Marguerite Trussler was investigating whether the call interfered with the administration of justice.