April 14, 2021

UCalgary Political Science interviews our own Dr. Jack Lucas

On getting interested in the “special purpose body”, developing the Canadian Municipal Barometer, measuring the urban/rural character in every federal electoral district… and a new book!
Jack Lucas

Dr. Jack Lucas is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Calgary

on moving from political philosophy to a Ph.D. on the “special purpose body” in Canadian local politics, developing the Canadian Municipal Barometer (CMB), measuring the urban/rural character of every federal electoral district in Canadian history, and a forthcoming book, Big City Elections in Canada, with University of Toronto Press!


Your work is broadly on municipal politics. How did you become interested in this area?

In my early years as a graduate student, I enjoyed reading political theorists like Alexis de Tocqueville and Alasdair MacIntyre, who emphasized the important role of local politics and institutions for a healthy democracy. This got me thinking about the need for more empirical research on local government and politics in Canada. I decided to write a dissertation on the history of a particular kind of local institution in Canada, called the “special purpose body”. I quickly became fascinated by the diversity of political institutions and practices that have existed at the local level in Canada, and their consequences for democracy and representation. I’ve been working in this area ever since!  

Can you tell us what you’ve been working on recently?

I’ve mainly been focused on three projects. The first is the Canadian Municipal Barometer (CMB), an annual survey of municipal elected representatives across Canada. The CMB partnership is focused on a few big themes—municipal democracy, municipal policy, and intergovernmental relations—and my own focus has been to use CMB data to better understand local political representation in Canada. The second project is “Cities in Canadian Political Development”, a new study of the urban-rural divide in Canadian politics. My collaborators and I have built a new measure of the urban/rural character of every federal electoral district in Canadian history, which we are using to assess the timing, size, and consequences of the urban-rural cleavage in federal elections. Finally, I’m also part of the Canadian Municipal Election Study, and I’ve co-edited a book as part of this project, Big City Elections in Canada, which will be published by the University of Toronto Press later this year.

Jack Lucas

What’s the next big thing you're thinking about?

In the next little while, I’ll be working on a study of the 2021 municipal election here in Calgary, with plans to write a book about the election with some collaborators in 2022. I’m also working on historical and contemporary analyses of the urban-rural divide in Canadian politics, and I’ll be running a national survey on these themes later this year. In 2022, I’ll be working with a few collaborators on a study of Ontario’s provincial and municipal elections. I’ve also got some smaller projects on the go, including papers about municipal politics and COVID-19, municipal politicians’ theories of local democracy, and public and elite attitudes about municipal autonomy. My collaborators and I are also working to build our CMB partnership into a more durable long-term partnership over the next few years.

My main research focus over the next year or two will be to better understand how (and how well!) political representation works in non-partisan municipalities, and to try to begin to explain the historical and contemporary significance of the urban-rural divide in Canada.

Finally, people might not know, but you’ve done some pretty impressive backwoods travels. Tell us about that!

Well, I’m not sure how impressive they are, but I do enjoy getting into the mountains! These days, much of my backwoods time involves short camping and backpacking trips with my family, fueled by plenty of candy and endless knock-knock jokes. I’ve also had a few opportunities to make my way a bit deeper into the backcountry, including a hiking and packrafting trip in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness a few years ago. This year, I’ve decided to tackle Jasper’s skyline trail, as a day hike. I’m telling you this mostly as a self-binding mechanism to compel myself to actually do it!

Thanks to Dr. Jack Lucas for sharing with us.


Follow Dr. Jack Lucas on Twitter at @lucasjacklucas

To learn more, visit Dr. Lucas’ profile.