Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to address my House of Commons colleagues today. I will be sharing my time with the member for Don Valley East.
As we have said, the 2018 budget is the next step in our government's plan to stimulate the economy and benefit the middle class and those working hard to join it.
Thanks to our plan and Canadians' hard work, ingenuity, and creativity, Canada has created hundreds of thousands of jobs since November 2015. The national unemployment rate is about as low as it has ever been in the past 40 years. Since early 2016, Canada's growth has been the strongest in the G7.
Prebudget consultations with a record 1.5 million people shaped this budget, which gives our government the tools to build a fairer and more competitive, diversified, and inclusive nation where everyone truly has the same opportunity to succeed.
We are working hard to reward curiosity and foster the creativity we need to innovate and maintain our competitive advantage in an ever more rapidly evolving global economy.
With this budget, we are putting initiatives in place to ensure that the benefits of economic growth are experienced equally by men and women. It is important that Canadians' various experiences be taken into account. That is why we are starting to put gender at the centre of government decisions. For instance, we are going to make substantive efforts to reduce the gender wage gap by introducing fair wage practices in federally regulated sectors and adopting proactive pay equity regimes, the details of which will be revealed later this year.
With regard to EI parental benefits, we are creating a new incentive for the sharing of benefits to support the parental role, adding additional weeks of benefits when parents decide to share the leave.
We are also going to support female-owned businesses to help them expand, find new customers, and increase export opportunities.
Ensuring that every Canadian man and woman has a fair and equitable chance of achieving success is not only the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do, and Canada's prosperity depends on it.
As a government, we are determined to help the next generation of Canadians remove the obstacles that have been holding us back for far too long. We know that we cannot continue to grow the middle class if half of us, namely women, is always being held back.
This budget is also for researchers and innovation. Our great country has long been at the forefront of scientific discovery and innovation. Open heart surgery, the Canadarm, and the discovery of insulin are just a few examples that spring to mind.
This budget includes historic investments in the next generation of researchers, which will lead to even more significant breakthroughs that, hopefully, will benefit not only Canadians, but the entire world.
We know that the government has a role to play in helping Canadians develop the skills they need to benefit from current and future economic opportunities. We also know that research contributes to the emergence of a workforce that can seize these opportunities with creativity and confidence. We are investing in training the next generation of researchers, which includes a larger proportion of women, and to provide them support by allocating new funding for fundamental research through the granting councils.
To make sure they get the infrastructure and support they need, we are also going to invest more in the research support fund, the Canada research chairs program, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, colleges, and polytechnics.
This budget also lays the groundwork for the digital research infrastructure strategy that is going to be developed to stimulate progress in advanced computing and big data.
Canadians want to make sure economic growth goes hand in hand with environmental protection. They know that their quality of life and their future economic prosperity depend on our commitment to protecting our natural heritage and keeping the environment healthy for future generations.
Furthermore, the extraordinary beauty of our natural surroundings, parks, and wild spaces is central to the Canadian identity. Whether we are building a campfire with our kids, hiking with friends and family, or going for a swim in clean, refreshing water, we all have a stake in protecting the natural environment, which is one of the pillars of our identity.
To that end, we have already allocated billions to the development of the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change, but we are not stopping there. In budget 2018, we propose further investments to encourage the growth of a sound, sustainable economy. We are going to make historic investments in nature conservation by protecting Canada's ecosystems, landscapes, and biodiversity, as well as our species at risk. We are going to develop the federal carbon pricing system, extend tax support for clean energy, and bring in better rules for regulatory processes and environmental assessments.
We are on the right track. Thanks to our various budgets focused on strengthening and growing the middle class, as well as the hard work, ingenuity, and creativity of Canadians, Canada has created close to 600,000 jobs since November 2015, and the national unemployment rate is almost the lowest it has been in 40 years. Since early 2016, Canada has had the strongest economic growth in the G7. Thanks to this budget, which was designed by Canadians for Canadians, we are addressing the challenge of equality head-on by asking the hard questions and beginning to come up with solutions.
We will continue to redouble our efforts to deliver on our plan to invest in the middle class and those working hard to join it. This plan makes people a priority, builds on Canadians' hard work, and keeps us firmly focused on the future so that our children have a better chance of fulfilling their dream of getting good jobs and contributing to their community.
I listened to and heard what my constituents had to say during the prebudget consultations that we held in my riding of Shefford, and as a result, I strongly support the budget tabled by my colleague the Minister of Finance. This budget and our previous budgets have made it possible to implement many measures to strengthen the middle class, such as the Canada child benefit and tax cuts that put tens of millions of dollars back in the pockets of families in my riding.
Once again, I am very proud to represent the interests of the people of Shefford, and I will always strive to do more to address their concerns.