At this time last night I was watching a live-stream of the Canadian election results programme on CBC. It was mostly a pleasurable experience, with one of the nastiest right-wing governments in the democratic world being shown the door at long last. The pro-independence and left-wing Bloc Quebecois also made a partial recovery, jumping from two seats to ten, which will nicely complicate the (bogus) narrative that the Quebec sovereignty movement is in relentless decline. The main disappointment was that the Liberals unexpectedly won an overall majority, because that will probably turn Trudeau into a conservative on the subject of electoral reform. As we know in this country, it's very hard to convince a leader who has just won a majority under a majoritarian system that it would be far better to make it almost impossible for anyone to win a majority again.
And I had one other little bugbear. I really hoped that the Canadian broadcasters had learned the lesson of their 2008 debacle, when they nonsensically "projected a Conservative minority government". What they meant by that, of course, was that the Conservatives would be the largest single party in a hung parliament. But their loose use of language had serious repercussions a few weeks later, when the Liberals and NDP entered into a coalition agreement with Bloc Quebecois support. Some people were outraged : "This is a coup! Didn't we just elect a Tory minority government?" Well, actually, no you didn't. You elected a parliament in which the Liberals, NDP and Bloc held a majority between them, and therefore what was happening was entirely legitimate, and should have been considered unremarkable. But the confusion was understandable given that TV networks had fed viewers the fiction that it's somehow possible to "elect a minority government". That may well have played a part in the coalition agreement failing to stick.
I regret to say that they've learned nothing. When the moment came to project a Liberal government last night, the CBC host added as an afterthought : "we're making no call on whether it will be a majority or minority government". In which case they weren't in a position to project a Liberal government at all - merely that the Liberals would be the largest party. If there's any chance of a hung parliament, you don't yet know for sure who will be forming the government - it's as simple as that.
So why did they do it? It was probably an infatuation with the idea that an election programme is only complete when viewers can be presented with a clear-cut winner. But the reality is that if voters decline to choose an outright winner on the night, the TV networks have no business choosing one for them.