Prime Minister Stephen Harper will later this week ask Governor General Michaëlle Jean to set Oct. 14 as the date for the next federal election, senior government officials said Monday.
Harper will visit Jean at Rideau Hall, her official residence in Ottawa, to establish the election date, the officials told the Canadian Press, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The prime minister will declare that, after having met with all three opposition leaders over the last few days, he no longer has the confidence of Parliament, the sources said. As per tradition, it will then be up to Jean to decide whether to dissolve Parliament and set the election date.
The official election call is expected to be made either Friday or Saturday.
"It will happen between [September] 5th and the 7th," a senior government source told the Canadian Press.
"There will be an election kickoff between Friday and Sunday."
The news came just hours after Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion came out of a brief meeting with Harper in Ottawa saying he had no doubt Canadians will face an election this fall.
Calling the meeting a "charade," Dion said the two were unable to agree on how to make the upcoming session of Parliament, slated to begin Sept. 15, more productive.
"There is no agreement … but there wasn't one six months or 12 months ago," Dion said outside the gates of the prime minister's official residence, less than 30 minutes after the meeting began. "There's nothing new there. It's nothing but an excuse."
Dion said Harper looked directly into his face during the meeting and told him there will be a vote this fall.
The Conservatives had set Oct. 19, 2009, as the date for the next federal election. However, the prime minister has recently suggested he is ready to pull the plug on his current minority government.
"The prime minister is not going to respect the fixed-date election legislation that he himself proposed and got passed in the House," Dion said.
The Liberal leader said he told Harper "it was really unfortunate that he has so little respect for the rule of law here in Canada."
Harper has said fixed election dates do not apply to minority governments. His spokesperson, Kory Teneycke, said Monday that a fall election called at the behest of the prime minister is perfectly legal.
"The fixed election date law provides for this exact situation. It's not a violation of that law. Mr. Dion may not understand what that law is, but this is clearly provided for," Teneycke said.
"If Mr. Dion wanted to avoid an election date … he would give some assurance that the government could survive until ."
Government officials have said Harper is prepared to trigger an election call any time after Tuesday.
Election call a way to dodge byelections, Dion alleges
Dion suggested Harper is eager to hold the vote a year ahead of schedule because he "doesn't want Canadians to have too much time to see how much he is ill-prepared to face the economy, how much he has difficulties with some ethical problems, and he doesn't want to see the results of byelections."
Three federal byelections have been scheduled in Quebec and Ontario on Sept. 8, while a fourth byelection is slated to take place in Ontario on Sept. 22.
Dion said he knew Harper was determined to hold an election this fall, but met with him Monday to tell him face-to-face that he thought the move was irresponsible and violated Canadian law.
Shortly after taking office in 2006, Harper touted his fixed-election law as a major step towards reforming Canadian democracy.
"Fixed election dates stop leaders from trying to manipulate the calendar," Harper said at the time. "They level the playing field for all parties. The rules are clear for everybody.
"Unless we're defeated or prevented from governing, we want to keep moving forward to make this minority parliament work over the next 3½ years," Harper said.
The prime minister has since declared that the workings of the House of Commons, where his party's 127 seats give him a minority, have become "dysfunctional." The Liberals hold 95 seats, the Bloc 48 and the NDP 30. The Greens recently gained their first MP, former Independent Blair Wilson, while there are three Independent MPs and four vacant seats.
The prime minister has met with other opposition leaders in the past few days to determine whether there is common ground to avoid a fall election and to secure their support on an agenda for the fall session of Parliament.
Meetings with NDP Leader Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Québécois, however, followed a similar script: the opposition leaders emerged to say Harper is intent on calling an election this week, with a vote to be held in mid-October.
Opposition leaders could avoid an election if they provided some certainty that legislation could be passed during the upcoming session of Parliament, Teneycke said Monday.
Dion, however, said he refused to provide Harper with a "blank cheque" when asked if he would support the government until October 2009.
"Because he's confusing two things. Does the Parliament work? The answer is yes. Does the government have the certainty to survive? The answer is no."