Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada called a federal election on Sunday, hoping to maintain his Conservative Party’s decade-long hold on power despite questions about its ethics and a struggling economy. By law, Mr. Harper had to hold a vote in October. But he broke with Canadian political tradition by formally opening the campaign in the middle of summer during what is a holiday weekend in most of the country. The move appeared designed to give the Conservative Party an edge in campaign spending. The campaign period before the vote on Oct. 19 will be the longest since Canadians all began voting on a single day in 1874. On Sunday, Mr. Harper said that the state of the economy, which his opponents view as his weakness, was the key reason to re-elect his government.
“It’s an election about who will protect our economy in a period of ongoing global instability,” Mr. Harper said after asking David Johnston, the governor general, to dissolve Parliament. “Now is not the time for the kind of risky economic schemes that are doing so much damage elsewhere in the world.”
Thomas Mulcair, the leader of the New Democratic Party, criticized Mr. Harper for producing eight budget deficits in a row and increasing the federal debt. “Mr. Harper has the worst economic growth record of any prime minister since 1960,” Mr. Mulcair said. “Obviously, Mr. Harper, your plan isn’t working.”
Mr. Harper’s Conservative government first took power in 2006 and has won two elections since then, gaining a majority of seats in the House of Commons in 2011. But over the past two years, concerns over the economy and ethics issues have eroded the popularity of Mr. Harper and his party.