Canada's PM to kick off election
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said that he will dissolve Parliament on Sunday, which will start an election process that he probably hopes will strengthen his minority government.
Harper's Conservatives unseated the Liberal Party in 2006 after nearly 13 years in power, but as a minority government the Conservatives have had a tenuous hold on power, and have forced to rely on opposition lawmakers to pass legislation and adopt budgets.
The party must win an additional 28 seats to gain a majority in Parliament, and although Harper has played down that possibility, polls in recent days show the right-of-center party has a good shot at doing so in the country's third national ballot in four years.
Analysts believe the Conservatives have a better shot of winning on the expected election day of Oct. 14, rather than waiting until being forced into an election by the opposition with a "confidence vote" when the Canadian economy might be worse off.
"It's about who the best leader is to lead the country through uncertain economic times," Harper spokesman Kory Teneycke said.
The upcoming elections might also have influenced Stephen Harper to call an election before then, as who is in the White House could influence who is in power in Canada.
The Conservatives now fill 127 of the 308 seats in Parliament. The Liberals have 95, Bloc Quebecois 48, the New Democrats 30 and the Greens have one seat. Three seats are held by independents, and four are vacant.
Harper is to visit Governor General Michaelle Jean on Sunday morning and ask her to dissolve Parliament. The governor general is the representative of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, who is Canada's head of state, but the position is purely ceremonial and obeys the wishes of the prime minister.
Harper has extended Canada's role in Afghanistan and has pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol, both of which could have an effect on who Canadian's vote for in October.