No Mandates on Abortion
Party Politics and Elections
The asymmetrical coverage of how Canadian and American electoral systems impinge on the abortion controversy gives a strong clue to why institutional differences in regimes really matter. That is the lesson of this chapter. In the United States, abortion has been thoroughly politicized by the two major parties, the electoral system, and presidential campaigns, but in Canada the issue has been politically neutralized. Let's begin first with the Canadian story.
In Canadian politics, abortion seems to be almost irrelevant. The 1988 national elections continued the Progressive Conservative (PC) government under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, which had to cope with abortion policy following the Morgentaler ruling that same year. But abortion was not a salient consideration in why the voters rejected the Liberal Party or endorsed the Progressive Conservatives. The dominant issue in the 1988 campaign was free trade, specifically the free trade agreement (NAFTA) with the United States. Moreover, a listing of the most important election issues in Canada since the 1974 elections does not even mention abortion policy. As Harold D. Clarke and his associates explain: "Substantial numbers [of respondents] moved from the choice of an economic issue (e.g., inflation) as most important in 1974, to a confederation issue (e.g., national unity) in 1979, and back to an economic issue (e.g., the Tory budget) in 1980." They go on to say, "In 1984 as well, the electorate's attention sud