11/13/2014 07:00 EST | Updated 01/13/2015 05:59 EST

Federal parties brace for Whitby-Oshawa byelection

Voters in the federal riding of Whitby-Oshawa go to the polls on Monday to decide who will replace the late Jim Flaherty in the House of Commons. 

A recent debate saw candidates try to strike a balance of respect for Flaherty's memory, while taking shots at his party. The riding was vacated when the long-serving MP and finance minister died in April. 

"Whatever you think of the Conservatives, they have become a tired and hard government," NDP candidate Trish McAuliffe told the crowd. 

For Tory candidate and former Whitby mayor Pat Perkins, Flaherty's ghost is a talisman.

"He gave this area the best representation we've ever had," Perkins said. "His participation and partnerships with me at the municipal level was a great boon to this area."

Pundits say the Conservatives need to hang on to the riding to curb the momentum Justin Trudeau has built over the last year — posing a potential threat as Canada edges toward a federal election in 2015. 

The leaders of the federal parties seem acutely aware of the riding's importance as each of them has recently visited Whitby-Oshawa. 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper came by to plug the Conservative's child-care plan, which was rebutted during a visit by Trudeau. A visit from the NDP's Tom Mulcair followed.