After a decade in power and in light of a sluggish economy, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper Sunday called parliamentary elections for Oct. 19, kicking off an extraordinarily long 11-week campaign period.
Harper’s center-right Conservative Party may lose its majority in the House of Commons, according to polls, following strong criticisms of his mishandling of the country's embattled economy. Harper has blamed outside forces, such as the global economic slowdown and the steep fall in the price of oil — a major Canadian export — maintaining that he is the only one who can be trusted to manage the coffers.
The Canadian dollar, which a few years ago was equivalent to the U.S. dollar, is now equivalent to 77 cents.
"Our well-being depends on the economy and the wrong leader will do real harm," he said. "Now is not the time for the kinds of harmful economic schemes that are doing so much damage elsewhere in the world."
The country's gross domestic product shrank in May for the fifth time in row.
Thomas Mulcair, of the New Democratic Party — which has a slight lead over Harper's Conservative Party — said he would “kickstart the economy and get Canadians back to work.”
“This is our No1 priority,” he added. “Wages are falling, incomes are stagnant and household debt is skyrocketing. Middle-class families are working harder than ever but can’t get ahead.”
Speaking in Vancouver, Justin Trudeau, leader of the third-place Liberal Party, echoed Mulcair’s concerns.
“If people want change in this country, it is because the economy is not working for them,” he said, claiming Harper’s economic plan had failed. “You want change that works for you.”