The Winnipeg Free Press flubs

I don’t normally comment on grammar, because I’m not an expert at it, but I do know enough to get it right most of the time. I also know it well enough to experience the prickle of hair standing up on the back of my neck when I encounter a particularly egregious gaffe.

In an age of txting & luving u, I get that prickle a lot, but, remembering my lack of expertise, I let it slide. This time, however, the Winnipeg Free Press has gone too far. In an op-ed piece on Ontario politics, on page A11 today, two paragraphs contradict each other directly unless you change the grammar. Here are the paragraphs:

[Premier Wynne’s] announcement there will be no special revenue deal for Toronto should it agree to a new downtown casino is designed to show Ontarians outside of Toronto she can say no to Toronto. This is politically advantageous as it secures her rural and northern flanks while not reducing her core Toronto vote given controversial Mayor Rob Ford is a casino proponent.

Moreover, saying yes to a deal that gives Toronto 50 per cent of casino fees given that other municipalities get far less opens the door to re-negotiation of those fees and the erosion of provincial revenues at a time when the province needs to reduce the deficit.

The first of these paragraphs says that Toronto didn’t get a special deal and the second one says it did. Reading it, I was completely bamboozled until I mentally re-wrote the second paragraph to make it conditional:

Moreover, saying yes to a deal that gave Toronto 50 per cent of casino fees given that other municipalities get far less would have opened the door to re-negotiation of those fees and the erosion of provincial revenues at a time when the province needed to reduce the deficit.

Now it makes sense. The first paragraph says Toronto didn’t get a special deal and the second one says what would have happened if it had.

That was easy. If a non-expert like me can get the paragraph right, you’d think the professional journalists at the Free Press could manage as much.

2 responses to “The Winnipeg Free Press flubs

  1. The conditional tense must make use of the word “if” in the conditional clause, and “would,” “could,” or “should” as part of the verb in the main clause. Often, the “if” is understood, which brings ambiguity to the thought. If we insert the proper “ifs” and change the verb to the conditional tense, the passage would read as follows:

    Moreover, IF saying yes to a deal that COULD give Toronto 50 per cent of casino fees given that other municipalities get far less, IT COULD open the door to re-negotiation of those fees and the erosion of provincial revenues at a time when the province needs to reduce the deficit.

  2. Chris, I do lots of editing and tutoring and the use of the present in the 2nd paragraph makes perfect sense to me: Let me change some of the following to a simpler context to see if it makes sense.

    “Moreover, saying yes to a deal that gives Toronto 50 per cent of casino fees given that other municipalities get far less opens the door to re-negotiation of those fees and the erosion of provincial revenues at a time when the province needs to reduce the deficit.”

    ex/ Agreeing to a new cable deal that provides you with 30 more channels raises your monthly utility bills by 15%.

    I believe it is called the present perfect and it reads perfectly well to me. I don’t see the problem. It was not saying Toronto is getting a better deal. It said that doing this creates this effect, operating in logical language which is present, consistent with the first paragraph using future indicative rather than conditional.

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