Dropping the writ on the executive legislature
So now that, due to my loose fingers and Corrente's illiberal policy towards the back button, you will not see my post on Canadian vice-Queens and their electoral meaning, I will salvage my pride with a short post on what just happened on the Canadian electoral front. ie, an election was recently called.
The Canadian government does not, in practice, have a separate legislative and executive function, which is the case for representative democracies that still follow the British model. Because the executive functions are carried out by the Parliament, it is therefore impossible to predict the election date, unlike in the USA. Why? Because Parliament is, under the best circumstances, an oppositional body, and it is possible for it to achieve deadlock. A deadlocked legislato-executive is a threat to the health of the state, and the Crown must terminate the Parliament in that case.
As it is possible for the governing party to decide to deadlock the legislature, so it has been the tradition to short-cut this and allow the Prime Minister simply to call an election. He (and in only one case, she) does this by approaching the Crown (in the person of the Governor General) to "drop the writ" and authorize a vote.
(Once upon a time, even in Canada's sovereign history, then-British-appointed GGs felt justified in refusing such requests. The showdown known as the King-Byng affair ended that state of affairs when Lord Byng of Vimy was forced against his inclinations to dissolve the Parliament at the behest of Mackenzie King. Thereafter the British Crown was shown to be entirely powerless, and eventually GGs were appointed from Canada as symbolic figures. Byng was probably right in principle, though.)
So it is not possible to have fixed election dates. However, some people used to blame the fact as partly responsible for why the Liberal Party had a stranglehold on Canadian politics in the 90s. (They're wrong.) The Liberals were accused by some of calling elections at opportune moments to keep themselves in power. Which they were...but this technique has the known tendency to backfire sometimes as well, and is therefore difficult to blame.
However, that didn't stop the successor Conservative* minority government of Stephen Harper from exploiting resentments against this in passing a fixed election-date law. No law could actually create predictable election dates, because the opposition could successfully deadlock the Parliament in a minority-government situation, and there would be no choice but to have an election. But it was intended, apparently, to restrain the governing party.
Well, lo and behold, Stephen Harper decided that this was an opportune moment for his party to hold an election. It turns out that he may be right that there is a giant loophole in the law he passed, effectively rendering the most ballyhooed aspect of it meaningless.
Stephen Harper is a vicious ideologue and a weak reflection of Grover Norquist and Dick Cheney. He is also a very clever man who has managed to muzzle the real wingnuts in his party. While as a PM in a minority government, he has had a relatively free ride due to a weak opposition, there have been limits as to what damage he could do. For a number of reasons, he feels that this is his last chance to turn his minority into a majority and to remake Canada into what he thinks it ought to be, he who never left any room for doubt that he believes that Canada should be more like the USA in the ways that the USA is less hospitable for ordinary people.
And because of his bad faith and his election timing, it is quite possible he may succeed, if for no other reason than Canadian ennui and complacency.
*Not really the Tories of Brian Mulroney and before.