On Sunday, Canada's Prime Minister dissolved his country's parliament and called for general elections in mid-Octorber. Craig McCulloch reports from Vancouver.
Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper called for elections on October 14. In doing so, he dissolved parliament, ending his two and a half year old minority government.
Canada follows the British Parliamentary system, which means voters will only cast ballots for local members of parliament, or M.P.s. The party with the most elected M.P.s forms a government and the party leader becomes Prime Minister. Heading into the elections, Harper's Conservatives had 127 members of parliament out of 308, that gave him a minority government.
The Liberal Party of Stephane Dion heads into the elections as the Official Opposition, with 95 previous M.P.s. The Bloc Quebecois Party, which advocates the separation of mostly French speaking Quebec from the rest of Canada, and the more liberal New Democratic Party also had elected members in the last parliament.
After starting the election campaign, Mr. Harper told reporters that his government's record is the reason why he should be returned to office.
"Between now and October 14, Canadians will choose a government to look out for their interests in a time of global economic trouble," Mr. Harper said. "They will choose between clear direction or uncertainty, between common sense or risky experiments, between steadiness or recklessness. Canadians will choose between this government's proven record and clear direction, or an opposition whose increasing strident criticism attempts to mask unclear or risky agendas."
Liberal Leader Stephane Dion says that the Conservative Party is not looking out for the long-term interests of Canadians
"It's not that these Conservatives do not spend," Dion said. "In fact, they are the largest spending government in Canadian history. But they spend with no plan. Because they govern for the next day, the next poll, the next election. Never do they govern for the next generation."
In recent public opinion surveys, the Conservative Party is a few percentage points ahead of the Liberals -- but within the polling margin of error.
The Bloc Quebecois, which is only active in Quebec, came third in last week's polls. The New Democratic Party placed fourth, with the Green Party, hoping to get it's first elected M.P. coming in fifth.
While no specific issues are dominating the political agenda, the environment, the economy and Canada's involvement in Afghanistan are all expected to be debated during the campaign, which will last a little more than a month.
This will be Canada's third general election in just over four years.