Government Response and Accountability II: What We Can Learn from a COVID-19 Spring

Sponsored by University of Ottawa Press

Recorded on 12/14/2020
Posted in The Authority File

Episode 171

This week in the US, Congress meets to hopefully pass a stimulus package in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The last stimulus bill, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which included cash payments, forgivable loans for small businesses, and expanded unemployment benefits, came in late March. Almost 10 months later, with unemployment rates rising and provisions in the CARES Act soon expiring, pressure mounts in Washington. If nothing passes, who will be held accountable?

Colleen Flood and Vanessa MacDonnell tackle issues of Canadian and global accountability in the edited volume Vulnerable: The Law, Policy and Ethics of COVID-19. Vanessa explains how the courts and media play a role in holding the government responsible for pandemic-related legislation (or lack thereof). Colleen discusses the successes and failures of Canada’s cooperative federalism approach to COVID. In some cases, the marble-cake technique might be a better option; First Nations in Canada used self-determination to enact policies better suited to their needs as a vulnerable population. However, Colleen argues, it has also led to disarray, confusion, and scrambled lines of communication across provincial lines.

In the second episode of this four-part series, Colleen and Vanessa highlight the significant differences between investments in health care and public health, which perhaps foretold the unprepared responses to the pandemic across the globe. “If you’ve done a good job investing in public health,” Colleen states, “people don’t even know that they should be thanking you.” They also look ahead and predict the future of vaccine deployment. Who will get it first? Is a national or provincial rollout more likely? And how will governments strengthen public trust in the vaccine?


About the guests:

Colleen Flood
University Research Chair in Health Law Policy & Ethics
University of Ottawa

Colleen M. Flood is the University of Ottawa Research Chair in Health Law and Policy and inaugural Director of the Ottawa Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics. From 2017 to 2018, she served as Associate Vice-President Research at the University of Ottawa. From 2000 to 2015, she was Professor and Canada Research Chair in the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto. From 2006 to 2011, she served as a Scientific Director of the Institute for Health Services and Policy Research, one of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Her research interests are focused on the role of law in shaping health and health care systems and the appropriate roles for the public and private sectors. She is the author/editor of twelve books (two of which are in multiple editions) and editor of Halsbury’s Laws of Canada: Public Health (2019 Reissue) and teaches a course called the Law of Modern- Day Plagues.


Vanessa MacDonnell
Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law
University of Ottawa

VanessaMacDonnell is Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law and Co-Director of the uOttawa Public Law Centre. She researches in the areas of Canadian constitutional law, constitutional theory, comparative constitutional law, and criminal law and procedure. In 2019, she spent six months as Scholar-in-Residence in the Constitutional, Administrative and International Law Section of the Department of Justice Canada and was a Kathleen Fitzpatrick Visiting Fellow in the Laureate Program in Comparative Constitutional Law at Melbourne Law School.

Vanessa is currently completing a three- year research project on quasi-constitutional legislation funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Other recent projects focus on global constitutionalism and on examining the civil servant’s role in the implementation of constitutional rights. She is a member of the Global Young Academy.


Enjoy the episode? Check out the first in the series: