Elizabeth Shaughnessy COHEN

COHEN, Elizabeth Shaughnessy, B.A., M.A., LL.B.

Personal Data

Windsor--St. Clair (Ontario)
Birth Date
February 11, 1948
Deceased Date
December 9, 1998
barrister and solicitor, lawyer

Parliamentary Career

October 25, 1993 - April 27, 1997
  Windsor--St. Clair (Ontario)
June 2, 1997 - December 9, 1998
  Windsor--St. Clair (Ontario)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 34 of 39)

October 5, 1994

Ms. Cohen

Mr. Speaker, it is true it has been almost a year. October 25 will be our first anniversary. During that period we have had an opportunity to assess and to see the precise situation in which the government has found itself.

The full integration of this department will result in savings of $180 million and 4,000 full time equivalent jobs between the 1993-94 fiscal year and 1997-98 representing a reduction of about 25 per cent of the current complement.

The emphasis is on reducing overhead through streamlining and eliminating duplication. These targets will not affect the delivery of services but will result in savings of $1 billion over the next few years. This is not chicken feed. It is a lot of money. I am very sorry if we did not do it as quickly as the other side of the House would like.

Everything is simple over there. Somehow you give people guns and they will not shoot each other any more. We will have law and order. Knock 20 per cent off the budget and people starve in the streets and I guess we do not have as many people to feed. That is a very simple view.

Over here where the responsible people live, we can say that we have studied it, we have looked at it and it has only just begun.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Department Of Public Works And Government Services Act
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October 5, 1994

Ms. Shaughnessy Cohen (Windsor-St. Clair)

Mr. Speaker, when our government took office a year ago we made a number of very specific commitments to the Canadian people.

Among them was a commitment to deal with questions of the efficiency of government-

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Department Of Public Works And Government Services Act
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October 5, 1994

Ms. Cohen

Mr. Speaker, among the commitments we made when we came to power was a commitment to deal with the question of the efficiency of government operations, some of which over the past few years and particularly with the last government had become sluggish, fat and really not very efficient at all.

Our government was and remains determined to reassure Canadians that tax dollars are being spent in a manner which is efficient and cost effective and designed to produce the best results for our citizens. More specifically, our government pledged to work for a country whose governments are efficient, innovative and co-operative; a government which will meet the challenge of doing more with less in the new reality; a government which would provide improved service delivery in all areas where we were involved. At the same time we want to reduce the cost of government operations as a way of contributing to deficit reduction.

When we think about it this is a very liberal approach to a very difficult problem. Innovation is clearly necessary in order to uphold liberal principles in tough economic times. Those principles will be upheld because those Liberal campaign promises will be kept.

This government has worked vigorously and successfully over the past year to make good on these commitments. It has done so in a number of ways such as eliminating duplication in government services and building stronger intergovernmental co-operation.

One of the most fruitful areas for improving government efficiency lies in broadening the use of up to date technologies to communicate information and to deliver our services. This government has made continued progress in developing and implementing a number of these money and time saving applications of information technology.

One of the key players in furthering this process, one of the key players in developing new ideas and new applications is the recently formed Department of Public Works and Government Services.

As the government's main common service agency, Public Works and Government Services Canada currently supplies about 70 per cent of federal telecommunication services. An important element of the new department, the government telecommunications and informatics service is a major centre of expertise for these services and a key supplier to the entire federal government.

This department will operate in partnership with the private sector to manage infrastructure services for other government departments. These services can be enhanced and expanded with a view to establishing an integrated government-wide infrastructure. Clearly, Public Works and Government Services Canada has the key leadership role to play in re-engineering and streamlining the government's communications and service delivery system.

I would like to briefly outline a few of the specific applications of advanced technology that have been introduced by Public Works and Government Services Canada and that are already saving the taxpayers of Canada millions of dollars every year.

One of these is the direct deposit method of payment. In his role as Receiver General for Canada, the hon. Minister of Public Works and Government Services must issue approximately 193 million payments every year. In the past these were issued by cheque. These would cover salary payments to government employees and a variety of payments to recipients of government programs such as old age assistance.

Needless to say, this has been traditionally an expensive, although necessary process. In a move to reduce costs and improve these services the department has introduced direct deposit through which funds are deposited directly and electronically to the recipient's bank account.

Direct deposit has proved to be very popular and today more than 30 per cent of payments made by the Receiver General use this method. About three quarters of federal public servants and more than half of our pension recipients are now on direct deposit.

The system saves money for the Canadian taxpayer and is convenient for the recipients of these payments as well. The department estimates that over the past three fiscal years it has achieved savings of $45 million through reduced postage, production and financial costs. Cost savings are only a part of this story. Cost savings in and of themselves while important do not provide the whole picture here.

Direct deposit also eliminates the problem of lost, stolen, destroyed or forged payments. It further eliminates problems attendant to any disruption of postal service for instance. It is convenient, reliable, safe and is environmentally friendly. Direct deposit is an excellent example of an application of elec-

tronic technology that both reduces costs and improves service to the public.

Another example of communications technology introduced by Public Works and Government Services and which has growing application in the federal service is the use of electronic or E-mail. It now links more than 120,000 public servants across the country.

E-mail provides a system for exchanging information that is fast and efficient and that significantly reduces the paper burden within the government. It facilitates quicker decision making and faster service and it saves money, an estimated $55 million per year in time saving and improved efficiency.

Public Works and Government Services has also introduced during the past year a national video conferencing service. This service is now offered to all government departments and agencies at seven Public Works and Government Services sites across the country. Based on the enthusiastic demand for this new service, the department plans to expand to as many as 20 sites in the near future.

A major client of this new service will be Radian, the public service learning and communications network. This network's mandate is to save the public service time and money by encouraging long distance learning and video conferencing throughout the federal government which would then save on the costs associated with travel.

Although still in its early stages of development, this new service shows great potential for improving communications between various government departments across Canada at greatly reduced cost. It responds to the government's goal of cutting costs through the creative application of new technologies.

Members present may recall that in the autumn of last year and the spring of this year, the human resources development committee spent a great deal of time communicating with people across the country in an effort to establish a baseline of concern over the new social service review.

Part of that discussion and consultation employed this innovative new use of technology. I am pleased to say that the first witnesses to testify came from Windsor, Ontario. Instead of spending in excess of $8,000 to bring those witnesses to Ottawa, we were able through the use of this technology to spend substantially less and not to disturb them or have them travel.

The human resources committee will commence travelling on November 14 to all parts of the country in an effort to speak to people in their own locale and to see the situation across the country. While we are there we will continue to use video conferencing reaching even further into the country in order to give everyone an opportunity to be heard on this very important subject.

Through this technology the public works department has allowed us to communicate directly with Canadians and Canadians to communicate back directly with us in a very real form of direct democracy.

This department has also been active in expanding the application of new technologies in its business dealings with thousands of Canadian companies and individuals. As the prime procurement agency of the government, Public Works and Government Services purchases an average of $10 billion of goods and services each year on behalf of as many as 150 federal departments and agencies.

The department has instituted a number of automated systems to make this process more efficient and less costly to the government and to its suppliers. One of these is the recently established open bidding system or OBS.

This system provides an electronic bulletin board as well as a tri-weekly publication called "Government Business Opportunities" which is designed to give Canadian businesses fast and equal access to information about government contracting opportunities.

The adoption of OBS represents a major step toward fulfilling the government commitment to provide a contracting system that is fair, open and transparent. However by reducing the paper burden involved it also saves taxpayers an estimated $3.5 million annually.

This is one further example of how the application of electronic technology cannot only improve services but cut costs as well. Another application of technology in the business field is the department's electronic procurement and settlement system known as EPS. EPS links client departments within government to the suppliers and to a central control system allowing them to do business electronically, including ordering without requisitions, supplier payment without invoices and electronic journal vouchers without paper forms.

When this system is fully in place within the very near future, it will result in massive savings to the government and the taxpayer, estimated in the range of $176 million. It will create even greater savings for private sector suppliers, most of which will be passed along in the form of lower prices for government purchases.

These examples of the steps being taken to improve efficiency and service through new technologies indicate clearly that our government is living up to its commitment in this area. They also indicate the key role that the Department of Public Works and Government Services is playing in the process.

Initiatives such as the one I just described mean even more efficiency in government operations, better services to the

public, better access to the government by the public and less cost to the taxpayer.

Here are even more good reasons why we should pass Bill C-52 so as to give the department a clear, legislative mandate to continue its work in this area.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Department Of Public Works And Government Services Act
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September 22, 1994

Ms. Cohen

Mr. Speaker, I happen to agree with the hon. member in terms of the basic premise that there should be lower taxes. I do not think there is anyone in this Chamber who would not like to be able to help lower taxes right away.

I also agree there are families now forced to have two incomes in order to make the same sort of home that our parents perhaps made with one income. There is no question about that. Let us not cross that line. Let us not assume that all families have two working parents because one of them is being forced to work.

There are many families that exist today because two parents want to work and have careers. That is a part of our changing society. I see heads nodding. I see some agreement, which is pleasant.

I must point out that without the social safety net we cannot provide the atmosphere in which these parents can work. That is why we need-this will be a little segue here-to have some form of national child care standards so we can make sure that families with two parents who want to seek careers can have the type of support they need for their children. Then they will know their children are secure and living in a healthy and safe environment and they can continue to pursue their total goal as a family unit.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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September 22, 1994

Ms. Shaughnessy Cohen (Windsor-St. Clair)

Mr. Speaker, I feel constrained to make a couple of comments on the content of the last address. There are some fundamental errors in terms of what information has been promulgated in that argument.

First of all, it is very important when discussing parole and the issue of when or whether someone might be paroled to understand that parole is, in effect, a community based continuation of the sentence. A person who commits first or second degree murder is sentenced to prison for life. If he or she subsequently is paroled, they continue serving their sentence in the community under the supervision of parole officials.

It is misleading to suggest that a person who receives parole after 15 years is suddenly absolved and walks away. There are limitations on that individual's behaviour which are set out under the terms of the parole. His or her life is supervised. They can no longer simply live wherever they want or associate with whomever they want. They have to report regularly.

That part of the system may have strained resources. There may be other ways to strengthen or improve that system, but a person who commits murder is punished for life by the combination of incarceration and ongoing community supervision. It is misleading to suggest there is any other structure that somehow absolves that person at the conclusion of their jail term.

I would also like to point out that a false example was given of the amendments which relate to crime which is affected as a result of hate. In the example the hon. member gave of a home invasion perpetrated against members of a particular ethnic group, there would not be an automatic increase in penalty, nor would the issue of the victim's race come into play unless the prosecutor could prove beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of the court that the crime itself was motivated by the hatred of a member of that group. To invade the home of a person of a particular ethnic group may not be motivated by hate. It may just have been the most convenient place to hit on that particular night.

It strikes me that the government is absolutely right in recognizing that crimes motivated by specific hatreds of race, of sexual orientation or any of the other specified classes is particularly heinous in our society.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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