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Jack Layton and his NDP are on the move, gaining ground in the key battlegrounds of Ontario and British Columbia at the expense of a flat Liberal campaign, according to a new Nanos Research poll.

Nationally, Stephen Harper's Conservatives maintain an eight-point lead over Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals - 38.9 per cent compared to 31.1 per cent. But the story Thursday morning is that of Mr. Layton's national gains - he has increased his support from his campaign nadir last Friday of 14.9 per cent to 18.3 per cent now.

The three-day rolling poll, conducted for CTV and The Globe and Mail, has not picked up the full impact of the two leaders' debates. But it does register the first night of the English debate in which Mr. Layton was seen to have done well.

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Pollster Nik Nanos attributes two other factors to Mr. Layton's gains: health care and Mr. Ignatieff.

Health care continues to be the number-one issue of concern in this election; the Nanos poll is showing it trending upward day after day.

And, as Mr. Nanos points out, the NDP have a lot of credibility when it comes to health care, accessibility and universality.

In addition, the Liberals' numbers are not moving. They remain around the 30-per-cent mark, an indication, Mr. Nanos said, of a "flat campaign."

Mr. Nanos noted, too, that Mr. Layton's increases are in two key provinces, Ontario and B.C. In Ontario, his support has increased in one day to 17.9 per cent Wednesday from 14.3 per cent on Tuesday. And the story is even better for the NDP in B.C., where they jumped to 22.4 per cent from 17.1 per cent over the same period. Conservative support there has slipped to 40 per cent from 42 per cent.

Meanwhile, the Tories have opened up a lead over the Liberals in Atlantic Canada - possibly the result of the English-language debate.

Mr. Nanos has the Conservatives at 49.3 per cent in the region compared to 35.6 per cent for the Liberals - this is outside of the margin of error of 9.6 percentage points. It also represents a slide of nearly five points in one day for the Liberals.

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The Nanos poll of 1,019 Canadians was conducted between April 11 and April 13. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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