Canadians will head to the polls in a general election on Oct. 14, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Sunday in Ottawa after meeting with the Governor General.
Harper made the announcement outside Rideau Hall after his conversation with Michaëlle Jean.
"Her Excellency, the Governor General, has seen fit to dissolve Parliament," he said.
The vote will take place one day after the Thanksgiving holiday.
"Between now and Oct. 14, Canadians will choose a government to look out for their interests at a time of global economic trouble," Harper said.
When asked about what the outcome might be, the Conservative leader said, "We believe it is going to be a tough election. We believe it will be a tight election. And, yes, we believe in all likelihood it will be a minority."
Before taking questions, Harper paused briefly to praise Canada as the "best country in the world," and said serving as prime minister has been an honour.
Harper took direct aim at the Liberals, led by Stéphane Dion, and their promotion of large-scale spending and a new carbon tax.
"This tax will pack a cost on to every expenditure every family and every business makes," said Harper who is the MP for Calgary Southwest.
Dion's plan would levy $15.4 billion in new taxes on Canadian industries that produce high carbon emissions. The higher prices for energy that people would face would be offset by broad-based tax cuts, according to the plan.
Dion has countered that his plan is revenue neutral — offset by income-tax cuts.
Leaders react to election call, outline platforms
The Liberal leader said the October vote poses "a stark choice" for the country, and slammed Harper's party for not planning for future generations.
"Stephen Harper has formed the most conservative government in our history," Dion said in the foyer of the House of Commons.
Dion, who represents the Montreal riding of Saint-Laurent-Cartierville, said he would champion a "richer, fairer, greener Canada," and said he does not mind being "the underdog" going into the campaign.
Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe said it was important to send a large number of Bloc MPs to Ottawa, and said his goal was to prevent Harper from gaining a majority.
"In order to have Quebec respected in Ottawa, we need to have a team that puts Quebec first," Duceppe said in Montreal. He represents the riding of Laurier-Sainte-Marie.
"With the Bloc, Quebec can present a united stand in Ottawa," he said. 'We want Quebec to be the winner."
New Democrat Leader Jack Layton, speaking in Gatineau, Que., with the Parliament Buildings behind him, touted his team of MPs and called for a campaign of hope and optimism.
"Unlike Stephen Harper, I will be a prime minister who puts you and your family first," he said in English, after a lengthy start to his speech in French.
Layton, whose riding is Toronto-Danforth, urged Canadians to tap into the political "winds of change" in the United States, saying in French that it was time to say "goodbye to George Bush and Stephen Harper."
Green party Leader Elizabeth May, speaking in Guelph, Ont., said her top priority would be the environment.
"We must live on this planet as if we plan to stay," May said, saying the election "makes all the difference in the world."
May, who is a candidate in the Nova Scotia riding of Central Nova, called for "a better world for us and for our children," and said she would continue to challenge the "massive unfairness of excluding me from the leaders debate."
May's party has been shut out of the leaders debate, usually held in the last few weeks of a federal leadership campaign, because the Greens have never held a federal seat in Canada.
Just last week, they gained their first-ever member of Parliament when former Liberal MP Blair Wilson, a Vancouver-area Independent, joined the party on Aug. 30.
Harper now heads to Quebec City on Sunday and then to Vancouver. Dion will arrive in Montreal later in the day.
Layton will speak in Calgary later Sunday, while Duceppe will attend events in Montreal. May will remain in Guelph before heading to Ottawa.
Conservatives won minority in 2006
Harper's Conservative party has been in power since Jan. 23, 2006, when it won a minority of seats.
Heading into this election, the Conservatives held 127 seats, while the Liberals had 95. The Bloc Québecois had 48 seats, the New Democratic Party 30, and there were three Independent members of Parliament.
The Green party had one MP and four seats were vacant.
The calling of the Canada-wide vote means the cancellation of four federal byelections.
Three were set for Monday in the ridings of Guelph, Saint-Lambert , and Westmount-Ville-Marie. A fourth was to be held on Sept. 22 in Don Valley West.
After Harper made his announcement, Canada's chief electoral officer, Marc Mayrand, issued a press release confirming that the byelections would not take place.
This will be Canada's fifth general election in 11 years and the third in just over four years, dating back to June 2004.
The Conservatives had set a fixed date of Oct. 19, 2009, for the next vote, but Harper recently suggested he was ready to go sooner, and pulled the plug on his current minority government.