Let's compare the answers to written questions provided by the respective governments of Canada and the UK for October 31, 2012.
The Harper Cons answered two questions in the following terms:
Question No. 827--Mr. Hoang Mai:
With regard to environmental assessment on the proposed new bridge on the St. Lawrence River at Montreal: (a) why was this assessment done using a screening type of assessment rather than a comprehensive study; (b) what type of assessment will this project be subject to, under the new regulations and changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act as proposed in bill C-38; (c) how many comments did Transport Canada receive concerning this project, before the April 4th Transport Canada deadline, in terms of the Draft Environmental Assessment Guidelines under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, (i) how will these comments be assessed by Transport Canada, (ii) will these comments be made public; (d) what specific expertise will the following federal authorities contribute with respect to the environmental assessment, (i) Health Canada, (ii) Parks Canada, (iii) Federal Bridge Corporation Limited/Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated, (iv) St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation; (e) what are the financial costs of the environmental assessment; (f) is Consortium Dessau Cima+ the only firm in charge of environmental assessment, (i) have they agreed to respect the preliminary timeline of mid-2014, (ii) will the drafting of the reports by all firms be made public soon after this date, (iii) what are the details of the contract, number T8080-110362, reference number 236518; (g) have the responsible authorities delegated the performance of the environmental assessment to any other party and, if so, (i) have the other parties agreed to respect the preliminary timeline of mid-2014, (ii) will the drafting of the reports by all firms be made public soon after this date; (h) what is the government’s policy in the eventuality that the responsible authorities conclude that the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects; (i) what are the public consultation processes involved in the environmental assessment and their timelines; (j) have the responsible authorities established a list of main interested parties and, if so, is it public, and, if it is not public, why not; (k) how many public consultations have been organized to listen to local constituents’ concerns, what was discussed, and are reports available; (l) which First Nations were included in the consultation, when, what points in the process what were discussed, and are reports available; and (m) will the official opposition have the opportunity to examine and comment on the environmental assessment according to subsection 18(3) of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act?Hon. Denis Lebel (Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, on January 22, 2012, the minister announced the launch of the environmental assessment, which is expected to be completed by December 2013.
The federal government announced on April 23, 2012, that the consortium Dessau/Cima+ of Montreal has been retained to complete the federal environmental assessment for the new bridge for the St. Lawrence. The assessment will include the environmental and technical components required to formulate recommendations to minimize repercussions of the project on the environment and on communities. The public, the local consultative groups, the private sector and the community groups will have an opportunity to participate in the environmental assessment process.
Question No. 863--Ms. Marie-Claude Morin:
With regard to Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission decision 2011-291: (a) what measures are in place to guarantee service for the 13,000 households in Quebec that could be deprived of service; (b) how much funding has been allocated to this issue; and (c) in case of loss of service, what is the plan to provide telephone and high-speed Internet services to the affected residents?
Hon. James Moore (Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), the CRTC can assure Canadians that they will not lose service due to this decision. One of the key policy objectives of the Telecommunications Act is to render reliable and affordable telecommunications services of high quality to all Canadians in both urban and rural areas. This includes the households served by small incumbent telephone companies in Quebec. The CRTC generally has two approaches to achieving this objective.
One approach is to rely on market forces to deliver high-quality service at a reasonable price. Where competition is strong, customers have a choice of service providers and these companies provide customers with innovative new services. In Quebec, wire line services will soon be available from competitive service providers. These will complement advanced wireless and satellite providers that already offer voice and Internet services to rural subscribers in Quebec.
With regard to (b), in areas where there is not enough competition to achieve this objective, the CRTC’s approach is to provide an annual subsidy to incumbent carriers in order to ensure access to telephone services at affordable rates. In 2011, the total amount of subsidy provided to incumbent carriers across Canada was $156 million; $6.5 million of this subsidy went to the small incumbents that provide service in Quebec.
With regard to (c), it should be noted that the CRTC monitors telecommunications markets across Canada, including the Quebec markets in question. The CRTC has broad powers under the Telecommunications Act that can be used as necessary to achieve its policy objectives, which include access to telecommunications services.
By way of contrast, here are the three first questions and answers from a much longer list of UK questions from the same day:
BillingJohn Woodcock: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the average time taken by her Department to settle invoices to external suppliers or contractors was in each of the last three financial years. 
Mike Penning: My Department publishes prompt payment statistics in its Annual Report and Accounts each year.
Comparable figures for the Northern Ireland Office as it is now configured are not available following the completion of the devolution of policing and justice functions on 12 April 2010. In 2010-11, the Department paid 97% of suppliers within 10 days; 43% of payments were made within five days. In 2011-12, the Department paid 97% of all suppliers within 10 days, and 30% within five days.
Press: SubscriptionsJonathan Ashworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to which magazines, journals and newspapers her Department subscribes. 
Mike Penning: My Department does not subscribe to any publications but have the following newspapers delivered for which we are billed monthly by the newsagents:
Irish Independent (Monday to Sunday)
Irish Times (Monday to Saturday)
Daily Mail (Monday to Friday)
The Telegraph (Monday to Friday)
Financial Times (Monday to Friday)
The Guardian (Monday to Friday)
The Independent (Monday to Friday)
The Sun (Monday to Friday)
The Times (Monday to Friday)
The Spectator (Monday to Friday)
Belfast Telegraph (Monday to Saturday)
News Letter (Monday to Saturday)
Irish News (Monday to Saturday)
The NI Daily Mirror (Monday to Friday)
The Sunday Life
Communities and Local Government
BillingJohn Woodcock: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the average time taken by his Department to settle invoices to external suppliers or contractors was in each of the last three financial years. 
31 Oct 2012 : Column 214W
Brandon Lewis: The following table shows the average time taken by the Department for Communities and Local Government to settle invoices to suppliers during the last three financial years.
The invoices included in the table are for all suppliers as DCLG does not distinguish between supplier types.
Financial year Average time (in days) 2009-10 6.29 2010-11 4.33 2011-12 4.15
Now, I haven't been a regular reader of the UK's questions and answers, and presume that the above examples are in keeping with how questions are normally dealt with. But I've watched Canada's Hansard closely enough to see the sample above as being normal if not downright generous as an example of the Cons' responses (as they're at least relatively free of spin if equally lacking in substance).
So what differences can we see between the two sets of questions and answers?
To start with, Canadian MPs seem to be far more effective at asking detailed questions which would actually tell an important story if a useful answer were provided, with Hoang Mai's question #827 serving as a prime example on that front. And one might see that as a basis to think we'll get good value paying more for answers.
Here's the problem, though: while the questions and answers would seem like an important means of holding the government accountable, they're rather less useful when the answers consist of nothing but boilerplate talking points and PR messages vaguely related to the subject area of the question asked. And that's all the Cons are deigning to provide.
While Mai's question includes a specific inquiry as to the number of comments received on the St. Lawrence River bridge project, Denis Lebel's answer utterly fails to provide that piece of information which should be readily available - sticking to pointing to the Cons' own press releases as somehow reflecting a full answer.
Likewise, James Moore's answer to question #863 conspicuously ignores Marie-Claude Morin's question as to the amount of funding allocated to services affected by a particular CRTC decision - instead pointing to overall program funding amounts which have nothing at all to do with the question.
Needless to say, that consistent obfuscation is in stark contrast to the UK's responses, which consist of little more than facts generally responsive to the questions asked. And the difference signals the utter breakdown in accountable government in Canada under the Harper Cons.
We should expect any remotely competent government to ensure that questions can be answered without too much cost or difficulty - whether a question originates within a federal department, or from an MP. And the UK example shows it's entirely possible to get that done.
But the Cons have apparently decided that their interest in limiting the flow of potentially useful information to opposition parties outweighs any sense that a government should actually inform elected representatives about its actions.
In pursuing that strategy, they first decided that it's easier to not answer questions than to actually address them. And to add insult to injury, they're now trying to claim it's the opposition parties' fault that the Cons can't cut and paste unresponsive content from their own press releases for an average cost of less than $4,000 per question.
The key takeaway is then that the Cons are both inefficient and ineffective in answering simple and direct questions which are intended to hold them to account. And that should serve as yet more evidence that the Cons are in fact far more interested in making sure government doesn't work than in operating it with even the bare pretense of competence.