Elections, eh? Why Canada’s ballot matters

Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party from left, Thomas Mulcair, leader of the NDP, and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper stand for a photograph prior to the second leaders' debate in Calgary, Alberta.
Ben Nelms | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Canadians head to the polls Monday, marking the end of one of the most hotly contested races in the country's history.

We take a look at why you should pay attention to the Canadian ballot result.

An end to a Conservative decade?

Canada's ruling Conservative Party under Prime Minister Stephen Harper may be dethroned after nearly a decade in power.

It's the first time the country has had such a close election: Current opposition, the left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Liberal Party are vying for power alongside the Conservatives.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper speaks to supporters at a rally in London, Ontario on October 13, 2015
GEOFF ROBINS | AFP | Getty Images

The final polls ahead of Monday's ballot place the country's centrist Liberal Party just points ahead of Harper, which could pave the way for Justin Trudeau to take the prime ministerial seat that his father Pierre Trudeau last held in 1984. It would be the first time in Canadian history that a father and son both held the reigns in Ottawa.

This may put the current left-wing opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) in third place, despite a strong start to the campaign.

Canada’s oil economy

Canada's economy has been hard hit by the slump in oil prices in recent months and technically entered recession after clocking two quarters of economic contraction in the first half of 2015.

The data has brought into question Canada's reliance on oil and gas, which account for about 10 percent of the economy, but about 25 percent of the country's exports, according to Natural Resources Canada. Canada oil's reserves are the largest in the world after Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.

Canada pain goes beyond oil

Harper tried to shake off the economic slump ahead of the election, refusing in early days to even use the word "recession." Harper's party had a relatively easy go throughout the global financial crisis, with the Conservatives coming out smiling after dodging the brunt of a credit crunch and real estate collapse that plagued its American neighbor.

Conservatives say they'll continue supporting Canada's energy sector and, if re-elected, would work to create a national liquefied natural gas industry. However, environmental opposition saw a number of pipeline proposals, including Keystone XL, fail to bear fruit during Conservative rule.

Unlike the NDP, the Liberal's Trudeau has also expressed support for Keystone XL, saying he prefers pipelines to rail transport, though both his party and the NDP have taken a more pronounced stance on developing clean energy projects. The NDP's Tom Mulcair, meanwhile, says he'd like to see oil refined back home, before considering pipeline support.

International trade

Canada may be the U.S.'s biggest trade partner, particularly in the wake of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, but right ahead of elections, Canada's trade prospects have grown.

The Conservatives cheered earlier this month after clinching the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal with 11 other countries including the U.S., Australia, Japan and Singapore.

A cargo ship sits docked at the Port of Seattle.
Negotiators strike Pacific trade deal

In the event of an NDP victory, however, Canada's participation could be reversed, after Mulcair said Harper didn't have a mandate to negotiate the deal so close to election time and after parliament had been dissolved.

Poll-leading Trudeau, though, said he would consult parliamentary representatives and provincial leaders before approving the deal, adding that Harper has failed to fully explain the benefits to Canadians.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau speaks at a rally at Goodwill Industries during a campaign stop in London, Ontario on October 7, 2015.
GEOFF ROBINS | AFP | Getty Images

Though the TPP pact claims to have opened trade between countries accounting for 40 percent of the global economy, there have been some concerns that farmers and Canada's auto industry may bear the brunt of any deal.

In an October 5 press release, the Dairy Farmers of Canada trade body said TPP would result in a loss of revenue for farmers, but thanked Harper for preparing a compensation plan in case there is an impact on the country's agriculture.

With so few details of TPP publicly available, many Canadians are wondering whether Harper made the right decision to push the country into one of the world's largest trade deals.

Canadians will head to the ballot box on Monday, October 19