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 38 of 39)

April 11, 1994

Ms. Shaughnessy Cohen (Windsor-St. Clair)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in this debate to speak to the government's proposed changes to the unemployment insurance program and in particular those changes that address the problems of low income Canadians and their dependants.

These changes to unemployment insurance are the first step toward a reform of our social security programs. They are the first step toward making these programs more responsive to the needs of Canadians as this country enters the 21st century.

The government is not taking this step unilaterally. The Minister of Finance engaged in extensive discussions with Canadians before bringing down the 1994 budget. The Minister of Human Resources Development has consulted and will continue to consult with business, labour and Canadians from every walk of life about social security reform.

This government knows that the life of every Canadian will be affected for many years to come by the results of this reform. That is why we are taking steps to ensure that Canadians will receive maximum benefits from these changes.

We have also taken special measures in our proposed changes to the unemployment insurance plan to protect those Canadians who are most vulnerable, those with low incomes who support children, aged parents or other dependants.

Under the current unemployment insurance rules, people who claim unemployment receive a benefit rate of 57 per cent no matter what their circumstances. Under our proposed changes there would be a two part benefit rate, 60 per cent for those with lower incomes who have dependants and 55 per cent for all others.

To qualify for the higher benefit rate a claimant must have insurable earnings of $390 per week or less and have dependants. This would entitle the claimant to $234 weekly in

unemployment insurance benefits. However, this government does not want rigid rules regarding eligibility to hurt those in need whose weekly incomes may be slightly more than $390.

Accordingly, we have also proposed that all claimants with insurable earnings between $390 and $425 receive the same weekly benefit of $234. All those with insurable earnings over $425 will receive 55 per cent of their earnings as benefits. We estimate that this will improve benefits for 15 per cent of unemployment insurance claimants or about 250,000 Canadians and their families.

The economic restructuring of our country owing to the forces of globalization and technology is creating a society increasingly divided between those who have well paying, secure, skilled jobs and those who are doing part time, low paid temporary work without the benefit or hope of advancement.

The segment of our population that has been hardest hit by this trend is women, in particular women with children. Women's roles in our society have undergone enormous changes since the social security system was first established.

Thirty years ago Canadians believed that most women would get married, have children and stay home to take care of their families. That was in the days when one wage earner could easily feed and care for a family and still put money aside for a holiday. Times have certainly changed. Today it takes two wage earners for most families to keep their heads above the poverty line.

Women now represent 45 per cent of the Canadian workforce. Unfortunately most of these women work for low wages. On average a Canadian woman working full time today earns just 72 cents for every dollar earned by a man. Those statistics say it all.

In 1990 about 5.4 million working Canadians received a total income of less than $10,000. Of these, 64 per cent were women. At the other end of this scale the picture is entirely different. In 1990, 3.3 million working Canadians received a total income of $40,000 or more. Of these, only 22 per cent were women.

Most working women in Canada have children. Many of these women are single parents bearing full responsibility for their children. The result is one of the most unacceptable facts of life in Canada: We still have 1.5 million children living in poverty. This is an unacceptable situation for one of the wealthiest nations on earth.

Our proposal to provide greater unemployment insurance assistance to those with low incomes and dependants will have an immediate impact on those Canadians most in need: the women and children of this country who are having trouble making ends meet.

Providing greater unemployment insurance assistance to low income Canadians with dependants is a signal to all Canadians that this government believes in equity and fairness. We want to make sure that if we have fewer unemployment insurance dollars that those dollars we do have will go to the people whose need is greater.

The proposals set out in the 1994 budget to change the unemployment insurance program are important first steps but they are only interim measures.

The reform of social security programs is essential if we are to meet head on the challenges of the 1990s and beyond. We can no longer use an outdated system to solve modern problems. It just is not working. We have too many people without jobs, too many families under stress, too many young people who have given up hope and too many Canadians who have lost their confidence in the future.

We cannot achieve change unless we shed the policies of the past that simply are not doing the job that they are supposed to do. We cannot achieve change if we try to cut and paste programs, patching something here and adding something there. We cannot achieve change unless we are willing to lay the system bare, putting every component under scrutiny.

This government believes we have to start with a clean slate and create a new framework for our social safety net. That is why this government is undertaking the most significant and wide ranging review of our social security programs in Canada's history.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 1994
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February 25, 1994

Ms. Shaughnessy Cohen (Windsor-St. Clair)

Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to draw the attention of the House to the outstanding achievements of a constituent of the riding of Windsor-St. Clair.

Chris Lori is captain of both the two and four man Canadian bobsled teams and is representing Canada this weekend in Lillehammer in the four-man bobsled events. Chris has been a member of the national team since 1985 and was overall World Cup four-man champion in 1990. In the 1992 games in Albertville, France, he came within .04 seconds of a bronze medal in the four-man event.

The dedication of both Chris and his team mates, Sheridon Batiste, Chris Farstad, and rookie Glenroy Gilbert, will stand them in good stead this weekend as they face off against the best in the world.

On behalf of the people of Windsor-St. Clair I wish Chris, his team and all Canadian Olympians who will be competing in the final two days of the Olympics the best of luck. I congratulate them in advance for their outstanding achievements.

Topic:   Statements By Members
Subtopic:   Winter Olympic Games
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February 23, 1994

Ms. Cohen

Mr. Speaker, had the bells not been cut short I too would have voted with my party.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Defence Policy
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February 22, 1994

Ms. Shaughnessy Cohen (Windsor-St. Clair)

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice.

Over the past few months Canadians have seen several examples of judicial gag orders. These orders have either excluded the media and members of the public entirely from criminal trials or have allowed them to observe but not to report on the proceedings.

Could the minister advise us of any steps which he has planned to review this situation in order to preserve the very important public right to know what is going on in the criminal justice system?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Justice
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February 14, 1994

Ms. Shaughnessy Cohen (Windsor-St. Clair)

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member for Calgary Northeast on his maiden speech.

I point out to him that this legislation was not undertaken without consultation with police forces. I would seek to correct what I think is simply an error in his address when he indicated that front line police officers were not consulted. It is indeed the purpose of the Canadian Police Association to represent front-line officers and not to represent chiefs of police. In fact those officers have been consulted through that association and support has been given.

I would also like to comment that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is in place for the benefit and for the protection of all citizens of this country. The fact that the charter does not produce results with which members opposite may from time to time agree or disagree does not make it any less a valuable tool.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Criminal Code
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