Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to take a moment to offer my condolences to the victims of the van attack in Toronto. My thoughts and those of my constituents of Kitchener Centre are with the victims, their families, and the first responders on the scene.
Our government supports researchers, scientists, and organizations that drive fundamental research as we seek to foster the innovation which will create a better world for everyone to live in.
We believe in science. We believe in the power of ideas and the benefits of technological innovation and investment, and in supporting the work of the brightest minds as they come together to create a bright future for Canada.
That is why I am so proud to rise in the House today to talk about our 2018 budget. It is a budget that builds on our work to foster innovation while ensuring that economic growth and social progress benefit the lives of every Canadian.
Innovation is everywhere, and innovation is certainly at the heart of my own community of Kitchener-Waterloo. As we speak, Redtree Robotics is busy developing chipsets that enable users to connect sensors to robots, Miovision is finding solutions for advanced traffic signal operations, Thalmic Labs is on a mission to merge people and technology, and Clearpath Robotics is working to develop self-driving vehicles and to get drones to factory floors.
In order for us to remain at the forefront of global innovation breakthroughs and scientific discovery, we need to keep this momentum going. We need to be investing now to support our future thinkers, scientists, and innovators.
That is why I am so proud that budget 2018 proposes a historic investment in support of researchers, in big data and in the equipment Canadian researchers need in order to succeed and become world leaders in their field. This includes more than $1.7 billion over five years to support researchers, and $1.3 billion over five years that will be invested in labs, equipment, and the infrastructure they need.
As we invest in the next generation of innovators, Canada is also responding to the ongoing shift toward a knowledge-driven global economy. Brilliant minds will travel to wherever they can find a good home. We intend for Canada to be that home.
In budget 2018, our government proposes a new investment of $210 million over five years, with $50 million per year ongoing, to support the Canada Research Chairs. This program supports researchers and will help Canada attract and retain the best minds in the world, in the hope that we can benefit from their energy, their skills, and their potential. Their initiative will help Canada shine on the world stage.
Fostering innovation and investing in technology also fosters unprecedented opportunities to change social norms and foster equality.
Speaking at the SAP Next-Gen program last year, the UN Women deputy executive director highlighted that innovation, technology, and partnerships are prerequisites for the achievement of the sustainable development goals.
Social progress and innovation must go hand in hand. When small, medium-sized, and large companies, government, academic institutions, and not-for-profit organizations come together to generate bold ideas, all Canadians benefit from more well-paying jobs, groundbreaking research, and a world-leading innovation economy which fosters opportunities and improves quality of life.
Bold ideas will come out of collaborations like the ones proposed in budget 2018. In the budget, the government is proposing to provide $140 million over five years to enhance support of collaborative innovative projects involving businesses, colleges, and polytechnics.
Our government is working hard to make sure that every Canadian has the opportunity to be part of the success in an innovation-driven economy.
In part, this involves ensuring that Canadians are given opportunities to build new skills which will help them adapt to a changing economy.
Budget 2018 also contains measures that will protect workers in this new environment. In it, the government proposes legislative amendments to the Wage Earner Protection Program Act that seek to make the program fairer and to increase the maximum payment to seven weeks from four.
Our plan is working. Unemployment rates are at historic lows and we lead the G7 in economic growth. Of particular note is that over the past six months, there has been a 16% drop in El claimants from the manufacturing and utilities sector. We are making progress, but there is still much work left to do if we want to unlock Canada's true potential.
In Canada today, women earn 31% less than men. For every dollar of hourly wages a man working full-time earns in Canada, a woman in the same position earns 88 cents. Our government knows that, when women have more opportunities to earn a decent income, everyone benefits. To advance women's equality, budget 2018 will introduce a new proactive pay equity bill. To close the gender wage gap, the government will adopt measures in budget 2018 that enable women to access leadership positions and encourage them to choose non-traditional careers.
Women still only receive 38% of doctoral degrees, and in the STEM fields, that number drops to 20%. The participation rate for women in the economy is 10% lower than it is for men. The Canadian gender wage gap is larger than the OECD average. Just 25% of senior management positions are held by women. Not only are these numbers unacceptable, but this gap is potentially damaging to our economy. Clearly, we must do better.
We recognize there is a need to deliver positive systemic change. Innovation in every sector works best when diverse voices have the opportunity to be part of the conversation. It was with this in mind that in budget 2018 our government has committed to improving diversity in the research community through investments in the granting councils, data collection initiatives, early career researchers, new gender equality planning, and to investments in new El benefits through a use it or lose it incentive which encourages a second parent in two-parent families to share the work of raising their children more equally and allow greater flexibility for new moms who want to return to work sooner.
We have also committed to investments which will help women entrepreneurs grow their businesses through the new women entrepreneurship strategy, and to supporting the advancement of women in senior positions by publicly recognizing corporations committed to promoting women leaders.
We live in an era of social progress, economic prosperity, and technological change. I am proud to live in a time and place in which the celebration of diversity and the commitment to strive to equality are at the heart of policy-making, and in which we realize that our country's economic advancement and our work towards the elimination of barriers to equality must go hand in hand.
As we foster this innovation, as Canadians explore new ideas and build new paths to the future, I believe that the policies of budget 2018 will work to ensure that our country has the brainpower, the diversity of thought, and the potential to continue Canada's success tomorrow and well into the future.