Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada called federal elections on Sunday, hoping to extend 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 main reason to re-elect his government. … In a country where summer can be all too brief, it is rare for politicians to call elections early unless forced to do so.
“It’s against all the folklore of Canadian politics to call an election in the summer,” said C.E.S. Franks, a prominent parliamentary scholar and professor emeritus at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. “Doing that when people are on their docks, not thinking about politics — I can see it being about as welcome as a root canal.”
Canadians do not vote directly for prime minister, but will elect local members of Parliament in 338 electoral districts. In addition to the three major parties, the Green Party plans to field a comparatively large number of candidates, while many Quebec voters will also have the option of electing candidates from the Bloc Québécois, a once powerful but now ailing separatist group.
Yasmin Dawood, a professor of law and political science at the University of Toronto, said the timing of the elections appeared intended to enable the Conservatives, who overwhelmingly lead in fund-raising, to outspend opponents.