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Queen's University

Public Health Working Paper Series

Federalism and the Public’s Health

The safety of the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat. Canadians expect their governments to work together to ensure that these and other basic aspects of their public health security are provided for. However, recent history, most notably the response to the SARS outbreak, has shown that this can be problematic. Fundamentally, the ability of governments to work together to protect the public’s health is strongly linked to the effectiveness of the intergovernmental relations that exist in this area. And while the study of federalism has been a mainstay of the Canadian research community for many years, one subject that has received scant attention is the manner in which the different levels of government interact to protect the public’s health.

The Institute of Intergovernmental Relations is therefore pleased to announce a new Working Paper series to help fill this void: the first systematic analysis of federalism in public health. It is based on a project that the Institute launched several years ago when public health was not a policy priority of governments.  Since then, unfortunately, Canadians have been exposed to several major health protection crises and concerns, ranging from SARS, to the growth of smog, the return of vaccine preventable diseases and most recently the listeriosis outbreak.  All of these issues raise questions of “who is responsible for what” among orders of government. Moreover, unlike many issues in Canada, these files typically involve more orders of government than just federal and provincial/territorial levels. Local and Aboriginal governments often play or should play an important role. Foreign governments and international organizations like the World Health Organization may also be involved in making or implementing the rules that are supposed to protect Canadians.

Kumanan Wilson and Harvey Lazar are the editors of this working paper series. Dr. Wilson holds the Canada Research Chair in Public Health Policy at the University of Ottawa and is a Research Associate at the Institute of Intergovernmental Relations.  Dr. Lazar is currently a Fellow at the Institute of Intergovernmental Relations and Adjunct Professor in Public Administration and Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Global Studies, both at the University of Victoria. This project was launched while Lazar was director of Institute of Intergovernmental Relations.  We would like to thank the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Public Health Agency of Canada for funding.

Any questions regarding the series should be directed to Dr. Wilson or Dr. Lazar.

Title Author/Editor Special Series Series Number
Creative Federalism and Public Health Kumanan Wilson and Harvey Lazar Public Health 2008-01 Download
Concurrency in Public Health Governance: The Case of the National Immunization Strategy Jennifer E. Keelan Public Health 2008-02 Download
Understanding the Role of Intergovernmental Relations On Public Health Policy: A Case Study of Emergency Preparedness and Response

Christopher MacLennan

Public Health


Canada-Wide Standards for Particulate Matter and Ground-level Ozone: A Shared Approach to Managing Air Quality in Canada Karen Thomas Public Health 2008-04 Download
Intergovernmental Relations in Food Biotechnology Governance: Complementary Disentanglement in Regulation with Collaboration in Food Safety and Inspection Melissa Gabler Public Health 2008-05 Download

Jurisdictional Ambiguity or Lack of Political Will? Intergovernmental Relations, Public Health, and Tuberculosis Control Among Aboriginals  In Manitoba and Saskatchewan

Michael Orsini Public Health 2009-01 Download
Still Waiting for a Comprehensive National Epidemic Surveillance System: A Case Study of How Collaborative Federalism Has Become a Risk to Public Health Christopher W. McDougall Public Health 2009-02 Download

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