Planning for the Next Pandemic Threat: Defining the Federal Role in Public Health Emergencies

to appear in IRPP Policy Matters, Volume 6 Number 5

Kumanan Wilson and Harvey Lazar

Published: November 2005

Keywords: pandemic, SARS, federal, government, emergency, national, health, Infectious Diseases and Pandemics


Addressing Canada's ability to respond to public health emergencies has emerged as a top policy priority in the aftermath of SARS and given the current threat of an avian flu pandemic. The management of the SARS outbreak clearly demonstrated critical problems with this country's capacity and governance structures in responding to public health emergencies. Public health reform in response to SARS has largely focused on developing collaborative intergovernmental relationships that can be relied upon in the event of an emergency.
In this study, Kumanan Wilson, MD, and Harvey Lazar argue that some of the emergency response problems that were highlighted in the reports examining the SARS outbreak remain unresolved. In particular, there are important limitations in the current federal legislative framework to address emergencies,which impede the federal government's ability to act at the early stage of an outbreak. They argue that legislative reform to provide the federal government with the freedom to act on an outbreak that is initially within the confines of only one province but is potentially of national concern should be a priority.

Disciplines: Governance

Publication: IRPP---Policy-Matters.pdf