Canada seems set for a snap poll. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is heading a minority Conservative Party government, has hinted at the possibility of dissolving parliament next week and seeking a fresh mandate.
Harper made the announcement on Tuesday despite the fact that he was instrumental in getting a fixed-election date law passed to stop the ruling party from deciding poll dates to its advantage.
Under that law, the next parliamentary election in Canada is due Oct 19, 2009.
The possibility of a snap poll was further fuelled when the prime minister's office cancelled Governor General Michaelle Jean's visit to Beijing for the Paralympics starting Sep 5.
The governor general is needed in the capital Ottawa to dissolve parliament and order a fresh general election. The government is also likely to not go ahead with three by-elections scheduled for Sep 8.
Peeved at the non-cooperation of the three opposition parties in parliament, the prime minister said: "They're committed to an election well before then (Oct 19, 2009). If they're clearly committed to that course of action, and I think they are, then it behoves the government to provide some responsibility."
Harper has proposed to meet opposition leaders Sep 9 before the parliament session (from Sep 15) to seek their cooperation.
But with Stephane Dion, leader of the main Liberal party, saying that he could not meet the prime minister because of the Sep 8 by-elections, Harper said: "The opening is to talk at any opportunity. Not to wait three weeks to have a meeting. Obviously that indicates a fundamental difference between the government and the opposition parties."
"The country must have a government that can function during a time of economic uncertainty, and if it's not this government, or not this parliament, the public will have an opportunity to decide whom," he added.
Reacting to the prime minister's threat of a snap poll, Dion said he was "inventing" a crisis to dissolve parliament.
"He wants to go to an election before Canadians see he is ill-prepared to face the difficulties of the economy," said Dion.