Canada set for elec­tion amid voter con­cerns over econ­omy, se­cu­rity


Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper on Sun­day called gen­eral elec­tions for Oct. 19, kick­ing off a cam­paign for a fourth straight term in power amid a slug­gish econ­omy.

Harper, in power since 2006, dis­solved par­lia­ment af­ter meet­ing with Gover­nor Gen­eral David John­ston, the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Queen El­iz­a­beth II, Canada’s head of state in this Com­mon­wealth coun­try.

Vot­ers will be choos­ing all 338 mem­bers of the House of Com­mons, 30 more than in the last elec­tion be­cause of redistricting.

Polls sug­gested the race will be tight.

Harper said the elec­tion was about “lead­er­ship on the big is­sues that af­fect us all, our econ­omy and our na­tion’s se­cu­rity.”

“It’s an elec­tion about who will pro­tect our econ­omy in in­sta­bil- ity and en­sure Canada’s fu­ture pros­per­ity. The na­tional elec­tion is not a pop­u­lar­ity con­test,” he added.

The econ­omy is ex­pected to be de­clared of­fi­cially in re­ces­sion in Septem­ber when sec­ond quar­ter GDP fig­ures are re­leased. But Cen­tral Bank gover­nor Stephen Poloz al­ready said this month the econ­omy was in fact in re­ces­sion.

The Bank of Canada last month slashed rates for the sec­ond time this year to re­vive an econ­omy badly hit by lower global oil prices.

Harper had planned to present him­self as one of the first G-7 lead­ers to post a bal­anced bud­get since the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis, bol­ster­ing his im­age as a strong fis­cal man­ager.

Fall­out from Cheaper Oil

But that was dinged by mas­sive job losses and lower roy­al­ties due to a drop in oil prices over the past year, and grow­ing un­cer­tainty about Canada’s eco­nomic fu­ture. The energy sec­tor ac­counts for 10 per­cent of na­tional GDP.

Boost­ing na­tional se­cu­rity is also likely to fac­tor into cam­paigns, af­ter at­tacks on Cana­dian soil last Oc­to­ber by sus­pected lone wolf mil­i­tants inspired by Is­lamic ex­trem­ism.

The in­ci­dents — in one case a gun­man shot dead a cer­e­mo­nial guard and stormed par­lia­ment, and in another two sol­diers were run over in ru­ral Que­bec, one fa­tally — pro­vided Harper with an op­por­tu­nity to show his met­tle on se­cu­rity.

But in­stead he has reaped scorn for dra­mat­i­cally ex­pand­ing the pow­ers and reach of Canada’s spy agency in the big­gest over­haul of the na­tion’s an­titer­ror­ism leg­is­la­tion since 2001.

“This elec­tion is also about se­cu­rity,” Harper said.

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