The economy has shrunk for five months, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper sparred with opposition politicians yesterday’s over whether Canada is in recession.

Canada’s four major party leaders took part in the first debate of the federal election, hosted by Advisor’s sister publication, Maclean’s, August 6. Harper debated Green Party leader Elizabeth May, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and NDP leader Tom Mulcair. They focused on Harper’s economic record over the past nine years.

Read: Harper promises to make home-renovation tax credit permanent

“Stephen Harper is the only Prime Minister in Canadian history who, when asked about the recession during his mandate, gets to say, ‘Which one?’” said Mulcair. “A lot of experts say we already are in a recession.”

May agreed: “We’re in a recession now. We have a weak and shrinking economy, and it’s the wrong time for austerity measures.”

Read: Low loonie could boost back-to-school spending

Trudeau added, “The reality is, Canadians across this country know that times are tough.”

Harper argued that only a small section of the economy – the oil and gas sector – is in recession. “The rest of the economy is growing,” he said. Maclean’s has the exchange, and other debate highlights, here.

If you’d like to see it all for yourself, replay the debate here, or read a full transcript here.

Also read:

Maclean’s Federal Issues Primers

Answering the most-Googled questions during the Maclean’s debate