Image: Stephen Harper
Todd Korol  /  Reuters file
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper
updated 9/7/2008 9:59:55 AM ET 2008-09-07T13:59:55

Canada's prime minister dissolved Parliament on Sunday and called an early election next month in hopes of strengthening his Conservative minority government's hold on power.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's party must win an additional 28 seats in the Oct. 14 election to gain a majority in Parliament.

The Conservatives unseated the Liberal Party in 2006 after nearly 13 years in power, but as a minority government the Conservatives have been forced to rely on opposition lawmakers to pass legislation and adopt budgets.

Analysts believe the Conservatives will have a better shot of winning than if they waited until being forced into an election by the opposition with a confidence vote when the Canadian economy might be worse off.

On Sunday, Harper visited Governor General Michaelle Jean and asked 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.

"Between now and Oct. 14, Canadians will choose a government to look out for their interests at a time of global economic trouble," Harper said after the meeting.

"They will choose between direction or uncertainty, between common sense or risky experiments, between steadiness or recklessness."

Harper has said he is running on economic issues and an energy tax proposed by the Liberal opposition, but Robert Bothwell, director of the international relations program at the University of Toronto argued the move was political.

‘The only issue’
"Harper is going for a majority government. That's really the only issue," he said.

It will be Canada's third national ballot in four years. Electoral legislation that Harper helped enact after he came to power in 2006 fixed the date for the next election in October 2009, but a loophole allows the prime minister to ask the governor general to dissolve Parliament.

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.

Since becoming prime minister, Harper has extended Canada's military mission in Afghanistan. Canada has lost 96 soldiers and as the death toll approaches 100 the mission could become an issue in the campaign.

Harper also pulled Canada out of the Kyoto Protocol, which commits industrialized nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Liberal leader Stephane Dion, a former environment minister who named his dog Kyoto, wants to increase taxes on greenhouse gas emitters.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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