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Justin Trudeau, Thomas Mulcair and Stephen Harper face off in The Globe’s economy debate on Thursday night in Calgary.Ben Nelms/Bloomberg

The Globe and Mail debate between the leaders of the main federal parties occasionally devolved into a verbal melee and, as they fought to hold their ground, each of the three men managed to land blows against their opponents.

For full Globe coverage of the debate, click here.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair took a humorous jab at Justin Trudeau's promise to legalize marijuana as the Liberal Leader was making the point that the New Democrat childcare plan would take eight years to be fully implemented.

"The fact is that a young family with a two-year-old doesn't need childcare eight years from now when their kid is in Grade 5. They need it right away. But Mr. Mulcair is not making a choice that's going to allow [the country] to invest in his promises. They're puffs of smoke," said Mr. Trudeau.

To which Mr. Mulcair prompted audience laughter by quipping: "You know a lot about that don't you, Justin."

Mr. Trudeau's best zinger was lobbed at the expense of Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, whom he accused of being out of touch with the travails of ordinary Canadians who are trapped in a long daily commutes.

Mr. Harper said he believes Canadians fear the Liberal Leader's plans to maintain a deficit as he spends more money on infrastructure. "We don't measure our level of optimism through our level of spending …" said Mr. Harper.

Mr. Trudeau immediately jumped in to turn the discussion back to Mr. Harper and the fact that, as Prime Minister, he has not had to worry much about the drive to work.

"What you don't understand is what Canadians can't afford is to continue to be stuck in traffic every morning because there is no reliable transit," said Mr. Trudeau. "You've been stuck in a motorcade for the past 10 years, but most Canadians are very aware that transit under-investment is a drag on our economy."

And later in the debate, Mr. Trudeau took on Mr. Harper over the six deficits his government has recorded. "You have run deficits in good years, run deficits in bad years. The only time you haven't run deficits in is in election years."

And then there was Mr. Harper, who was not about to let Mr. Trudeau interrupt his defence of his Conservative government's treatment of refugees after the Liberal Leader had accused him of denying them proper health care.

"We have not taken away health care from immigrants and refugees. On the contrary, the only time we have removed it is where we have clearly bogus refugee claimants who have been refused and turned down. We do not offer them a better health-care plan than the ordinary Canadian can receive ... " said Mr. Harper.

"That's not true Mr. Harper," piped in Mr. Trudeau.

"… That is something that most new and existing and old-stock Canadians agree with," said the Conservative Leader.

With a report from Daniel Leblanc