TORONTO – Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper plans to dissolve parliament on Sunday and call early elections in hopes of strengthening his minority government’s hold on power.
Harper’s Conservatives need to win an additional 28 seats to have a majority in parliament, and although he has played down that possibility, polls in recent days indicate the right-of-center party has a chance to do so.
Dimitri Soudas, a spokesman for the prime minister, announced Harper’s plans Friday, saying voting would be held Oct. 14. It will be Canada’s third national ballot in four years.
“The government needs to have a clear mandate from the people of Canada during a time of global economic uncertainty,” Soudas said. “There are two competing visions: one of higher taxes and out of control spending, and our vision of low taxes and a steady hand on the wheel during this period of economic uncertainty.”
The 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, forced to rely on opposition lawmakers to pass legislation and adopt budgets.
With Harper signaling in recent weeks that he was leaning toward calling early elections, analysts said the Conservatives had a better shot of winning now rather than waiting until being forced by the opposition into a vote later, when the Canadian economy might be worse off.
Experts said Harper also might want to go before voters ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November, which could put a Democrat in the White House and encourage Canadians to choose a more liberal government.
The Conservatives now fill 127 of the 308 seats in parliament. The Liberals have 95, Bloc Quebecois 48, the New Democrats 30 and Greens one. Three seats are held by independents; four are vacant.