(Toronto, Ontario) Jack Layton drew the NDP's line in the sand Tuesday, warning the front-running Conservatives there are certain measures his party won't tolerate if Canadians elect a minority government.
However, the chest-thumping could very well be moot if the Tories win a majority government on Monday as some public opinion polls are suggesting.
Nonetheless, Layton said New Democrats are prepared to make a determined stand should Conservatives attempt to turn back the clock on social change as well as Canada's well-established squeaky clean, good-guy image in the world.
"Let me be very clear about this," he told a business audience.
"If any party tries to threaten the integrity of these values and positions in any way....we will not stand idly by and allow the positive accomplishments of Canadians to be undone."
At the same time Layton was laying down his position, Prime Minister Paul Martin was campaigning in B.C. and taking his hardest shot yet at the NDP leader.
Martin accused Layton of giving Conservative Leader Stephen Harper "a free pass" throughout the seven weeks of stumping around the country.
Layton quickly fired back that Martin was the one who had failed Canadians.
"He's beginning to point fingers and I think he should just take responsibility himself for those failures in key areas," he said.
Layton told a breakfast meeting of the Toronto Board of Trade the NDP will not allow public medicare to be dismantled in favor of a two-tier health system.
Alluding to the Kyoto protocol on climate change, he said his party will not permit "the next Parliament to gut Canada's environmental responsibility."
In addition, Layton cautioned that the equality rights of Canadians - read same-sex marriage - will not be discarded without a fight.
Harper has promised to scrap Ottawa's Kyoto commitment and replace it with a made-in-Canada solution to greenhouse-gas emissions.
Similarly, he's promised an open debate in the Commons on restoring the traditional definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman.
The sleepy drift into a ground war in southern Asia is something the NDP would also oppose, said Layton.
Canada's shifting role in Afghanistan - from peacekeeping to hunting down insurgents - needs to be debated and democratically approved, he added.
So far, Layton has avoided any talk of co-operation with Harper under a minority scenario and has firmly rejected overtures from the Conservatives.
But as the Tories gain momentum in the polls, he's been forced to acknowledge he could be dealing with a new resident of 24 Sussex Drive - someone he has less in common with than with Martin.
For his part Harper has said there are several areas where he could find common ground with the New Democrats, most notably on cleaning up corruption and scandal.
The Tories would be willing to compromise, as long as the opposition ideas fit within the general ideology of the Conservative party.
In a recent interview, Harper dismissed Layton's earlier rejection of co-operation as election posturing.
*by Murray Brewster, Canadian Press