TORONTO (AP) -- Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper triggered an election campaign Sunday and set the vote for Oct. 19, when Harper and his Conservative party hope to earn a fourth term after almost a decade in power.
Analysts say the election is a toss-up and Harper faces an uphill battle to form another majority government. If Harper wins he would become the first prime minister since Sir Wilfrid Laurier in 1908 to win four consecutive elections.
The prime minister dissolved Parliament Sunday in a visit to the governor-general, who serves as Canada's formal but mostly ceremonial head of state.
Harper has managed to nudge a traditionally center-left country to the right since coming to power in 2006. He has gradually lowered sales and corporate taxes, avoided climate change legislation, supported the oil industry against the environmental lobby, increased military spending and backed Israel's right-wing government.
Harper, 56, said the election is about keeping the economy strong and Canadians safe from terrorist attacks. He said now is not the time for inexperience and "political correctness," referring to the opposition leftist New Democrat party.
Analysts say a minority government in Parliament is likely no matter what party wins the most seats in Parliament. That would mean the winning party would have a shaky hold on power and need to rely on another party to pass new legislation.
A coalition government between the leftist New Democrats and Liberals is also possible.
Analysts say the opposition New Democrats, led by Tom Mulcair, 60, have a chance to gain power after winning an election in Alberta, Canada's most conservative province, a few months ago.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, son of late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, is also in the running to be the next prime minister. But he has trailed in recent polls after Conservatives have run several attack ads saying the 43-year-old not ready for the job.