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 36 of 39)

May 31, 1994

Ms. Shaughnessy Cohen (Windsor-St. Clair)

Mr. Speaker, today is the last day of Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month.

An estimated 50,000 Canadians suffer from MS. It is the most common disease of the central nervous system affecting young adults in their prime. Twice as many women as men suffer from MS. It is usually progressive and leads to numbness, loss of balance, tremors and even paralysis.

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada was founded in 1948 to help those affected by the disease. Today it has a Canada-wide membership of approximately 26,000. The society promotes and supports MS research and services for people with MS as well as their families. This is accomplished through charitable donations to the society and fund raising events such as the Carnation Campaign which took place this past month.

I wish to congratulate the volunteers and staff of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada for a successful month and to encourage all Canadians to lend support to Multiple Sclerosis Month and to the Carnation Campaign.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Multiple Sclerosis
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May 31, 1994

Ms. Shaughnessy Cohen (Windsor-St. Clair)

Mr. Speaker, before my main comments, I would like to say to the absent hon. member for Yellowhead and members of his caucus that none of them were in Windsor, Ontario in December 1990 when our CBC station went dark and 10,000 people went out onto the streets to protest this action by the CBC.

The CBC is the only cultural instrument in Canada with the capability to unify us and to inform people from the great city of Windsor in southwestern Ontario, the greatest city in the southwest, about people from for instance Yellowhead, a place that I am sure many people had never heard of. Certainly I was not aware of it until I came to the House.

In December 1990, 10,000 people streamed out on to the banks of the Detroit River and looked at a most incredible skyline, a skyline that imposed itself on us every day and reminded us of the American presence, a skyline that clearly reminded us that our specifically Canadian culture in Windsor was always in danger of being overshadowed by that tremendous country right there where we can almost touch it.

That country is so close we can go there for lunch and still make it back in an hour. With that country standing there with all its cultural instruments ready to bring to bear upon us and with people in the House starting to talk about doing things that would devastate the CBC, the single greatest unifying cultural instrument in this country, I say there is something wrong.

If members of the party opposite had been elected in Windsor and were talking in the House on behalf of the constituents of Windsor, they would have to go against their party line. The people of Windsor, Ontario, the people of southwestern Ontario in general, do not want to see the wings of the CBC clipped any more. They do not want to see any further erosion of our cultural institutions.

I remind members of the House that there is a hidden agenda over there. That hidden agenda, in my view and in the view of many people on this side of the House, is that members opposite want to rid this country, by arguing the bottom line, of our wonderful cultural institutions, our arts, our great writers and things like CBC radio and television that unify us and make us different from the people over the river, as we say in Windsor.

I am not here to talk about that today; I just felt the urge. I am actually here to talk about changes to the unemployment insurance scheme announced in the February 22, 1994 budget, specifically in contrast to unemployment insurance changes that were brought in under the previous government. I do not need to tell any of us here that the government's first priority is to get Canadians back to work. Changes to the unemployment insurance program are but one of our urgent pledges to create jobs.

As a result of the unemployment insurance measures introduced under Bill C-17, the 1995 unemployment insurance premium rate will be lowered by 30 cents. This is 30 cents lower than would have been the case without these changes. In 1996 the budget measures I am talking about will mean premium relief of at least 25 cents.

In comparison, when the last major changes to the unemployment insurance program under Bill C-21 were put in place in 1990, the unemployment insurance premium rate had just been increased by 30 cents. That was not the last premium rate increase. Since 1989 premium payments by both employers and workers have doubled. For example, the maximum amount of employee contributions increased from $614 a year to $1,245. The maximum amount of employer contributions increased from $859 a year to over $1,700.

The measures introduced in the budget were necessary to reverse the trend of continually escalating premium costs for both employers and workers. The premium rollback means that there will be 40,000 more jobs in the economy than would have existed if the premium had been allowed to rise, that is 40,000 more Canadians contributing to the prosperity of our country and, incidentally, paying taxes.

In terms of premium payers the rollback means an employer with 100 employees will see a reduction in payroll taxes of up to $30,000 over the next two years. Over the same period employees will benefit by saving up to $235. Since the reduction in payroll taxes will result in a lower cost to employers to employ people, it will have the added benefit of lowering Canadian production costs, encouraging exports and making domestic products more competitive.

Premium rollbacks will also create an environment for employment growth, but premium reduction alone is not enough to give us an effective UI program for the 1990s. That is why we are proposing other measures to create a new climate which gives greater recognition to long term work records.

We know that almost half of the Canadians claiming benefits have worked for 40 weeks or longer before making a claim. We know that they have a long and a strong attachment to the economy through the workplace. In keeping with this reality the proposed changes strengthen the link between work history and unemployment insurance eligibility.

The provisions call for raising the minimum length of time an employee would have to work to be eligible for unemployment insurance benefit only from 10 weeks to 12 weeks. We are also proposing a new formula to calculate benefits, a formula that takes greater account of the amount of weeks worked while still being sensitive to regional rates of unemployment.

I am certain my hon. colleagues do not need to be reminded of the regional differences that persist in employment opportunities. With those differences in mind, we are proposing a formula that continues to link extra benefits to the level of unemployment in a claimant's particular region. The unemployed in high unemployment areas will be eligible for up to 20 more weeks of benefits than claimants with similar work histories in the most robust regional economies in Canada. In fact the Atlantic provinces as a whole will receive $970 in unemployment insurance per capita and Quebec will receive $730 per capita compared to $675 per capita for all of Canada.

Another proposal would find greater unemployment insurance benefits to claimants who have low incomes and dependants. Under current rules people who claim unemployment insurancereceive a benefit rate of 57 per cent no matter what their circumstances. The proposed changes would mean that the benefit rate would be increased to 60 per cent for unemployed workers who had low incomes equal to or less than $390 per week and were supporting dependants: children, an aged parent or other dependant. The benefit rate for all claimants would be 55 per cent.

This is an important change since Canada, one of the wealthiest industrialized nations, has about 1.2 million children living in poverty. The proposal for greater assistance to low income UI claimants with dependants will help these children, those most in need and their mothers, many of whom are raising children in poverty as single parents.

Approximately 240,000 claimants will gain from the enhanced benefit rate. Most UI recipients go from unemployment insurance to a job. Two-thirds of all unemployment insurance recipients will not be affected by the reduction in the duration of benefits. Under the current schedule of benefits three-quarters of all recipients do not use all the benefits to which they are entitled.

We cannot overlook the fact that the proposed changes to the unemployment insurance system will have an impact on some Canadians. The government has taken that impact into account. It has been addressed through other job creation initiatives such as the infrastructure program, the youth services corps and the youth internship program. I hasten to point out that all these programs have been launched. They are already creating jobs not just in Windsor but elsewhere in the country.

When people lose their jobs programs such as claimant re-employment services help unemployment insurance claimants to return to stable, long term work as soon as possible. Our department is currently preparing to provide assistance to those most affected by the changes in Bill C-17.

The budget also included $18 million in new funds for strategic initiatives. While these are not unemployment insurance moneys, the funds coming from the consolidated revenue fund, the strategic initiatives will allow the government to work with provinces in dealing with some of the impacts of the unemployment insurance changes.

Joint strategic initiatives with provinces and territories and private and non-governmental organizations will be a key part of the social security reform process. These funds represent investments in people that will continue to pay off over the years to come. The strategic initiatives offer a means of finding more effective ways of dealing with some of the problems faced by the current system. Initiatives which assisted the unemployed will in turn help to reduce the deficit in the unemployment insurance account and to maintain its fiscal integrity.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, together with the human resources department, is assisting Atlantic Canadians to deal with the collapse of the groundfish industry through the $1.9 billion Atlantic groundfish strategy. We are offering help to those who want new careers outside the fishing industry.

Instead of continuing passive income support, the groundfish strategy offers a broad range of career development programs and services to address adjustments facing fishers and fish plant workers. These include financial and employment counselling, education and training in trades for those under 25 years of age, assistance in relocating to a new job, self-employment incentives, employment training for workers 25 to 49 years of age, work experience in green projects, job creation and community

service for those close to retirement as well as those who wish to accept early retirement options if they are over the age of 55 years.

It is estimated that about 30,000 persons in the Atlantic provinces and Quebec, 13,000 fisherpersons and 17,000 plant workers, will be initially eligible for assistance under the new strategy. All individuals meeting the criteria will be entitled to a minimum of two years of assistance. Depending on the individual's length of time in the fishery they could receive up to five years of assistance.

Following the passage of Bill C-113 Canadians expressed concern about the fairness of some measures in the Unemployment Insurance Act. The government listened to those concerns, and the proposals in Bill C-17 correct the inequities of the voluntary quit and misconduct provisions. For example, we propose that a period of suspension not be treated as loss of employment due to misconduct. That means that time worked prior to a suspension would still count if the claimant applies for unemployment insurance benefits at some time following the suspension.

Similarly, a leave of absence would no longer be considered a voluntary separation from work. A worker returning to work would not at some later date be penalized for the leave of absence and would still be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.

We are also proposing that eligibility rules be made more flexible for workers who leave a job that was about to be terminated anyway. When a claimant quits employment for just cause, the claimant will always receive the benefit of the doubt when the information from the employer and employee is balanced. We propose the legislation be amended to give the claimant the benefit of the doubt regarding just cause.

Bill C-17 also enables the testing of new approaches to the operation of the unemployment insurance program to ease the administrative burdens currently imposed on employers, claimants and the government.

An example of such a pilot project would be measures to reduce the information requirements of the record of employment for employers. The complexity of the record of employment has long been a bone of contention for employers. Changes to the procedure would lead to improved equity, increased accuracy in payments and better service.

A second example of a potential administrative pilot project is electronic filing of claims by employers or claimants. The pilot project will examine the possible service and cost benefits of filing electronically.

In summary, these proposed changes are an important first step in the overall reform of our system. The changes to the UI program are interim in the sense that UI is only one part of the process of comprehensive reform of the social security system already under way. In the meantime, however, these changes will move us toward revitalized programs to deal with the changing labour market, programs that help people to find sustainable employment while at the same time support those unable to work.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act
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May 31, 1994

Ms. Shaughnessy Cohen (Windsor-St. Clair)

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member could assist us a little bit in understanding the relationship between these UI changes that are taking place in this bill and the plans that the government has for social security reform.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act
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May 26, 1994

Ms. Shaughnessy Cohen (Windsor-St. Clair)

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to John Wintermeyer, formerly of Kitchener, Ontario, who died recently after a courageous battle with Lou Gehrig's disease.

John Wintermeyer was a past leader of the Ontario Liberal Party. Although never elected, he stood for the finest principles in politics and was a pillar of his community and his church.

Three of his sisters and his brother-in-law, who is my favourite uncle, are in Ottawa today. I would ask all hon. members to join me in honouring the memory of the late John Wintermeyer.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   The Late John Wintermeyer
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May 4, 1994

Ms. Shaughnessy Cohen (Windsor-St. Clair)

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of National Nursing Week, May 9-15, 1994.

The theme this year, "Nurses Make the Difference", catches the essence of the great contribution that this profession makes to the health care of all Canadians.

Since the time of the first nurse in Canada, Jeanne Mance, nurses have remained the keystone of the Canadian health care system.

I commend all nurses in Canada for their high levels of commitment, skill, dedication and caring service to our people.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   National Nursing Week
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