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Martin, Layton and Duceppe go after Harper in debate

[PoliticsWatch Updated 11:15 a.m. January 10, 2006]

Round 2 of the leaders' debates takes place this evening. 

OTTAWA  — NDP Leader Jack Layton made his best effort yet in the campaign to convince voters tired of the Liberals, but concerned about the Conservatives to vote NDP in Monday's English-language leaders debate. 

And Prime Minister Paul Martin went on the offensive against Conservative Leader Stephen Harper , but it may too soon to tell if he delivered any fatal blow. 

Two things are clear from Monday evening's debate. 

Harper's poll lead meant he received more attacks from Bloc and the NDP than in the last series of debate. 

And Martin's last card in this campaign, which all polls suggest he is trailing badly, is to get Harper talking about the Charter of Rights.  

Martin dropped a bomb in the early part of the debate when announced for the first time ever that he planned to introduce legislation to revoke the notwithstanding clause from the Constitution. 

The PM later explained to reporters that the change would be federal-only legislation and could be unilaterally by the federal government. 

After the debate, all the other leaders found Martin's surprise announcement odd and the most talking heads appearing on post-debate shows questioned whether it was a desperation move or a campaign Hail Mary. 

Meanwhile, if Layton's job was to prevent a stampede of his supporters and undecided voters to the Liberals, he definitely got that message across.

"I ask you to join me in saying that enough is enough with Liberal arrogance and scandals and enough to the vote-buying promises of the Conservatives," Layton said early in the debate, asking voters to consider "a third option." 

Layton's campaign has been gaffe-free, but has also been overshadowed by the Liberal meltdown and Harper's policy announcements. The party tends to receive headlines only when Layton comments on his role as power broker in a minority Parliament. 

But the NDP leader saw his polling numbers increase in the days after the first round of debates.

The French-language debate will air on cable news channels at 8 p.m. ET. 

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