News & Events

Perverse Subsidies and Downtown Revitalization

October 2, 2012

An article by Pamela Blais in the new issue of Building magazine explains how common perverse incentives can thwart downtown revitalization efforts, and how one might go about fixing these misincentives in order to attract development to city centres. Click here for the issue.

Transforming and Revitalizing Downtown Summit

June 6, 2012

Pamela is a key speaker at the Transforming and Revitalizing Downtown Summit in Hamilton, Ontario, June 6 and 7, 2012. She will focus on how to correct price signals to promote downtown revitalization. Click here for more information.

Western Planner Review

March 1, 2012

A review of Perverse Cities in the US magazine Western Planner can be found here. Reviewer Patrick L. Dugan recommends the book as “required reading for any planner or finance official involved in managing urban development”, underlining that the analysis presented in the book is as relevant for US cities and towns as it is for Canadian.

7th Annual Spirit of Red Hill Valley Lecture, November 7, 2011, Hamilton, ON

November 7, 2011

In the Seventh Annual Spirit of Red Hill Valley Lecture, Dr. Pamela Blais discusses the thesis of her book, Perverse Cities.

Date: Monday, November 07, 2011

Time: 7:30 PM
Location: First Unitarian Church
Address: 170 Dundurn Street South, Hamilton ON (Google Maps)
Contact: Friends of Red Hill Valley

Ontario Professional Planners Institute Conference, October 12-14, Ottawa, Ontario

October 12, 2011

Pamela Blais led a session entitled Pricing for planners: the missing piece in achieving sustainable urban form. For more information on the conference, click here.

Ecocity 2011, August 22-26, Montreal, Quebec

August 22, 2011

Pamela Blais led a session entitled You Can’t Build a Green City on Gray Subsidies: Outdated Ideas About Progress and What to Do About It (this title not my idea!), at this international conference on Tuesday, August 23. What it’s really about: how perverse subsidies inhibit sustainable urban form and what to do about it. For more information on Ecocity 2011, click here.

Canadian Institute of Planners/Atlantic Planners Institute Conference, July 10-13, 2011, St. John

July 10, 2011

Pamela Blais led a session entitled Achieving Sustainable Communities: Not Without Better Price Signals!

Presentation Summary: Creating denser, livable communities that are inherently sustainable has been a central thrust of planning for many years now. Yet the critical role of price signals in creating sustainable communities is severely under-appreciated. At present, price signals actively undermine denser, more efficient urban forms and planning policy, and actively encourage less efficient and sustainable urban forms. But price signals can be reformed to become strong drivers of sustainable communities. This session will explain this idea, and provide practical examples showing how this can be done.

The session will take place on Tuesday, July 12th at 10:45. Pamela will be joined by Jim Baird, Commissioner of Development Services, Town of Markham, Ontario, who will discuss smart pricing mechanisms in the Town of Markham.

For more information on the conference, click here.

Perverse Cities

March 29, 2011

Pamela Blais’ book, “Perverse Cities: Hidden Subsidies, Wonky Policy and Urban Sprawl”, has been released by University of British Columbia Press.

The book provides a provocative explanation for the persistence of urban sprawl, pointing to flawed public policies and distorted price signals.

For more information from UBC Press on the book, including a preview and ordering, click here.

The book can be ordered directly from UBC Press or purchased online from or

Perverse Cities Shortlisted for the 2010/2011 Donner Prize

March 29, 2011

Perverse Cities is one of five books shortlisted for the Donner Prize, the award for best book on Canadian public policy.

The prestigious Donner Prize annually rewards excellence and innovation in Canadian public policy writing. In bestowing this award, the Donner Canadian Foundation seeks to broaden policy debates, increase general awareness of the importance of policy decision making, and make an original and meaningful contribution to policy discourse.

The Donner Prize was established in 1998 to recognize and reward the best public policy thinking, writing and research in Canada. The 2010/2011 shortlist books were chosen from 69 submissions. The winner will receive $35,000, with $5,000 awarded to the other finalists.

In selecting Perverse Cities, the Donner Jury commented that the book was:

“Analytical and detailed in its approach…consistently daring in challenging accepted views of the causes of and solutions for urban sprawl”.

For further information on the Donner Book prize, click here.

Sprawl and the Fiscal Landscape Event, Kitchener

February 24, 2011

On Thursday, February 24, 2011 Pamela delivered a keynote presentation to local councillors, municipal bureaucrats, builders and developers and others at a forum on Sprawl and the Fiscal Landscape. The presentation explained how distorted price signals drive sprawl and discourage reurbanisation, denser suburbs, and other more sustainable forms of urban development, and provided some examples of how to fix the distorting policies. The session was organised by John MacDonald, of John MacDonald Architect Inc. For more information on the session, click here.