One of the things I appreciate about this chair is that he always saves the best for last.
We've talked about a number of different factors today, whether it's COVID, the war or climate change that has had an impact on inflation. We've talked about some domestic causes such as perhaps price-gouging in the corporate sector, which I think has been well documented by folks at Canadians for Tax Fairness and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. There's clearly a lot of conjecture, and we've heard some of it today, about the role of government on fiscal policy and inflation and perhaps some calls that were made at the Bank of Canada on the monetary policy question and “what if” scenarios that have come up.
If we rewind to any time prior to October 2021, a big part of that narrative from certain folks in Parliament was that pandemic benefits, particularly CERB and the CRB, were driving inflation. I mean, let's be honest: The largest share of government spending through the pandemic was on direct income support to Canadians. That's what we're talking about when we talk about fiscal policy. I think it was implicit, clearly, and sometimes explicit that the line of that argument was to say that if pandemic income supports were removed from the equation, you would see a slowing down of inflation now.
The pandemic benefit programs were all but completely cancelled at the end of October 2021. The programs that were put in place in this Parliament were quite a lot less. They were harder to access. They delivered less benefit to Canadians through the omicron lockdown than their predecessors did in previous waves, yet inflation spiked and has been doing so ever since the elimination of the benefit. I'm certainly not implying any kind of causal or even correlative link between the elimination of those programs and inflation, but it seems pretty clear to me that pandemic benefit income support was not a significant driver of inflation or we would have seen some kind of relief in inflation, had those programs not been there.
There are still people who are in significant distress, not because of lockdowns explicitly, but I think of people in the travel and tourism industry, specifically independent travel advisers. I think of people in arts and culture who, while venues are open, just haven't seen the same number of people coming back. In some cases they have, but in others they haven't.
I wonder if you have some reflections with hindsight on pandemic benefit programs and some thoughts about where there might be a need for ongoing support within certain important aspects of our economy like travel and tourism that we want to see come back. In a tight labour market, we don't want to see all those people convert to another area of the economy, because those are skills and expertise that won't be available to Canadian businesses as those industries rebound, which hasn't yet happened to the extent that we might like to see but is no doubt coming.
I wonder if you might provide some reflections on that for the committee.