I used to be skeptical of fixed election dates, as an American intrusion into our Canadian parliamentary ways. But having them in BC (introduced in 2001, with the last election mandated for May 2005 and the next for May 2009), I like them. It means that the opposition parties can prepare for an election in advance rather than waiting on eggshells for the government to call one.
That said, the federal bill is presently moot given that fixed election dates only really matter when there is a majority government. A minority government can fall at any time, and as has been pointed out ad nauseum, tend to last about eighteen months.
And speaking of majorities, as is the case in many other ways, this looks a lot like a token gesture by the Harper government that makes some superficial changes but leaves the fundamental levers of power intact. I’d be much more supportive of a party that promised practical means of giving people more say in the decisions that affect their lives. Proportional representation could be a part of that but I am thinking of something deeper. Several years ago, during the last NDP leadership race, a group called the New Politics Initiative formed to push the NDP in that direction of more inclusive democracy. Jack Layton seemed to take up that call, but today I do not see any party pushing a “new, democratic” agenda.