Public health is in the spotlight of public and political concern, providing a unique window of opportunity for its revitalization and restoration as a pillar of the Canadian health care system. The establishment of a Federal Public Health Agency is a critical first step. The public health community has identified key challenges toward this renewal. However, public health ethics have received little attention and, when addressed, have focussed almost exclusively on communicable diseases. The ethical issues inherent in public health transcend infectious diseases and are distinct from clinical and research ethics. Identifying and addressing ethical issues at the heart of public health, including the public interest and the common good, as well as fundamental issues related to the core functions of public health will be essential if this revitalization of public health is to be achieved. While legal and regulatory reforms are necessary, they will not be sufficient to adequately address fundamental questions of the valuing of public health or the ethical issues in public health. Elements of a research agenda on the ethical foundations of public health reform are identified here.