Reeling from low oil prices, Canada fell into a recession in the first half of the year, government data confirmed Tuesday, putting Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the defensive in the run-up to October elections. According to Statistics Canada, the economy contracted 0.5 percent in the second quarter after retreating 0.8 percent in the previous three months. It is Canada’s second recession in seven years and it is the only Group of Seven nation in economic retreat.

The figures are the weakest since the 2008 global financial crisis. The data reflects fears about the health of the global economy as more gloomy evidence emerged of a slowdown in China, a main engine of growth worldwide.Harper, whose Tories are trailing their rivals in opinion polls ahead of the October 19 election, blamed the overseas turmoil for Canada’s woes, and emphasized an expansion in the economy in June. FULL REPORT