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Here’s what you can expect in Thursday’s debate on the economy

Stephen Harper, Tom Mulcair, and Justin Trudeau will debate each other for the second time in the federal election campaign Thursday night in Calgary.

With the three leaders deep in the trenches of the historically long campaign, there’s bound to be some snide remarks, and criticisms about what has already been announced.

So if you haven’t been paying attention (but totally will now), or didn’t watch the last leaders debate (but have already set up the PVR record, so you can watch it twice), here’s what you need to know.

It’s the economy, stupid

This leaders’ debate, like the last, will focus on the economy. But the economy is much more of a clear issue now than it was in August. For one thing, we’re definitely in a recession – and Harper will likely face tough questions about Canada’s sluggish growth.

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In response, Harper will likely point out that the Canadian economy actually grew by 0.5 per cent in June and the government ended 2014 with a $1.9-billion surplus despite initial forecasts calling for a $2-billion deficit, according to numbers released Monday by the Finance Department.

A recent Ipsos poll found the economy is a more important election issue than almost everything else, including the environment and the growing refugee crisis.

WATCH: Political analyst David Taras joins Global Calgary with a look ahead at what to expect at Thursday’s leader’s debate. 

Deficits and balanced budgets

So Canada’s in a recession. How will each leader pull the country out of it? They each have a different plan.

Trudeau is promising deficits, lowering income taxes for some while increasing it for others, and cuts to small business taxes. He’s been up front about his willingness to run a deficit, despite the criticisms from Mulcair and Harper.

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And likewise, Trudeau will likely criticize his opponents for not running deficits. Mulcair has promised to increase investment while running a balanced budget. Trudeau has said that’s not possible, employing the quip, “you can’t be Tommy Douglas on a Stephen Harper budget.”

Harper, who is playing in front of his home crowd, will likely say the country’s current fiscal plan – his – is where it should stay.

WATCH: With Canada in a recession, the economy is going to be top of mind for voters. Here’s a quick explainer on how we got into a recession and what it means to Canadians.

…and here’s how they’re paying for it

The NDP is the only party to release a fully-costed program so far.

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So how they’re going to pay for their promises while running either a deficit or balancing the budget, remains a mystery to most Canadians.

Elizabeth May will and won’t participate

Green Party leader Elizabeth May has been pining to get into the leaders’ debates since before she even held a seat in the House of Commons.  She’s been included sporadically since then, most recently in last month’s debate.

But that could be it for this election, as she won’t formally be a part of Thursday’s debate. Instead she’s planning on crashing the party – digitally.

May has announced she will respond to the debate questions in real-time through a Twitter video feed.

What you missed last time

WATCH: Extended highlights from first federal leaders debate.

The economy was also the main topic discussed during last month’s debate, with the leaders sparring over whether the country was in recession (it is).

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