Imagine if all the U.S. jobs lost during the recession were already back.

That would be great, right?

What if America's deficit stood at just about $50 billion?

That would be wonderful, too, right?

Well, there is a North American country where that's true. It's Canada.

Still Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper faces a tough test in Monday's election.

"The choice is to continue on the economic track we're on with low taxes that are providing jobs and enabling us to deliver real, affordable benefits to Canada," Harper told supporters gathered in Niagara Falls Thursday, always happy to highlight such a rosy economic story.

As Canadians head to the polls for their national elections, you'd be excused if you predicted in light of all the good news that Harper's Conservative Party will be rewarded with a solid majority in Parliament.

But that's not the case. The election is a toss-up.

So, what's going on? For starters, reporters will tell you Harper is not the type of politician who's warm and fuzzy. In fact, words like dull often come up.

"A lot of people think (Harper) would have had a majority, if he had not suffered the charisma-bypass a lot of people think that he's suffering from," says Rob Russo, the Ottawa Bureau Chief for Canadian Press.

Enter Jack Layton -- aka "Jumping Jack," "Happy Jack," or "Smilin' Jack" as he's been called by the Canadian media. He is the darling of this election.

Layton is the leader of the New Democratic Party, and until now, he's been a smaller player on the national political scene. His party's politics are to the left of Canada's so-called "natural ruling party," the Liberals (Yes, left of the Liberals).

The NDP platform (like the Liberals') calls for a cap-and-trade system to deal with greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. A notion which, depending on who you talk to, would result in an estimated 28-to-40 cents increase in gasoline prices. Gasoline there already costs $5.20 gallon -- that's $5.47 U.S.

Layton is not a fan of free-trade deals like NAFTA, and if he becomes prime minister, he wants Canada's order of 65 new American-made F-35 fighter jets cancelled.

When he set out on the campaign trail Layton told supporters, "You're working harder than ever, your household debt is at an all time high, your retirement is less secure, and nothing's being done for you. What does all this mean? Well, it means that Ottawa is broken and it's time for us to fix it!"

And in the last two weeks, Layton and the NDP have steadily risen in national polls. Now, they sit in second place in those surveys ahead of the Liberals. As a real contender, he's catching heat from both the Liberals and the Conservatives.

Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff calls Layton's spending proposals a "fantasy budget." Harper, noting much of Canada's economy depends on trade with the U.S., says the Layton-led NDP, "has opposed every trade deal we have signed."

Ah, but "Smilin' Jack" has something rare in Canadian politics, a motivated block of young voters behind him. It's believed that's the reason early vote totals are so high. But the Conservatives are credited with the best get-out-the-vote operation in the country.

The election has become the story in Canada. Not the NHL play-offs. Not the Royal Wedding -- and mind you, Queen Elizabeth is Canada's official head of state.

"It's crackling entertainment politically," says Russo. "The fact that so-called socialist hoards are actually gonna be massing their forces outside (the Prime Minister's residence) is going to be very good entertainment even for sedate Canadians."

Steve Brown is an author, radio broadcaster and seminary professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida.