Alberta could get rid of daylight saving time - Macleans.ca
 

Alberta could get rid of daylight saving time

Day-lit evenings mean more time for soccer and patio parties, but does the province want to be two hours ahead of B.C.?


 

At some point Sunday, if he gets around to it, Thomas Dang will adjust the digital display on the stove in his Edmonton condo, and step on a stool to dial his wall clock one hour forward. It could be one of the last times the provincial NDP legislator and his fellow four million Albertans go through this ritual of sacrificing an hour of sleep to the daylight-saving gods.

The 21-year-old MLA has been consulting on the Alberta government’s behalf about how, more so than whether, to move the province off the twice-yearly dance between Mountain standard time and Mountain daylight time. An announcement will likely come soon after the March 12 switch, and most signals point to Alberta yoking its clock to long-time daylight saving holdout Saskatchewan’s, staying in year-round central standard time (or MDT).

Dang says more than 30,000 Albertans replied to his online survey, plus a flood of other phone calls and emails. “Overwhelmingly, people are ready to stop changing their clocks,” he says. Then the question shifts to whether Albertans should permanently move toward sunnier evenings (Central standard time) or sunnier mornings (Mountain). Dang says the public arguments for the bright-night option are extended recreation time for kids’ soccer and camping in the summer evenings, and restaurant patios enjoying more hours of light. In an interview, the New Democrat offers tellingly flimsy rationale on the other side: that Mountain time is the geographically proper zone for Alberta, while others want to retain the distinctly named time-band “because there is some sort of attachment to the mountains.”

The NDP government, languishing lately in the polls, having just enacted a carbon tax and about to reveal this week another red-ink budget, could use a populist measure that costs next to nothing. Scrapping semi-annual time changes that throw kids’ sleep patterns out of whack fits neatly into that category. But by leaving clocks sprung forward in perpetuity, the New Democrats would be doing something manifestly un-New Democrat: moving in the opposite direction of an idea that would curb energy usage, instead bowing to lobbying from businesses who want to protect their bottom line. Yeah, this would be just another pro-business, anti-environment decision by … the Rachel Notley NDP?

Governments brought in daylight-saving time throughout Europe and North America last century as a measure to save nighttime energy use, by delaying the need for artificial light in the summer (farmers, often blamed for the time-switching, have actually always opposed it; hens and milk cows don’t adjust well to farm workers’ abrupt schedule changes). A study of Ontario electricity patterns showed the switch worked as it should, decreasing power demand by 1.5 per cent, with most of the reduction coming from the spring switch. But here’s the thing: the differences between Ontario and Alberta extend beyond the westerners’ love of rodeo and petroleum wells. Blake Shaffer, an economics PhD candidate at the University of Calgary, crunched the power grid records between 2000 and 2015, and found that Alberta’s energy consumption actually goes up by 1.6 per cent around the March move to standard, and by 0.9 per cent over daylight time’s whole eight-month duration.

The reason it’s different in Alberta, Shaffer concludes, is two-fold: the province’s northerly location means later March sunrises than in Ontario, while Albertans tend to rise and commute earlier than in the rest of Canada. Shaffer, a C.D. Howe Institute fellow-in-residence, found a range of energy-use fluctuations around the country. B.C. and Nova Scotia power consumption drops after the spring-forward, and New Brunswick behaves more like Alberta.

This effect is significant, says Shaffer. Moving to year-round standard time would equal the savings of all Alberta home switching light-bulbs to more efficient LEDs, or up to $50 million. But if the province goes the other way, as the NDP seems to prefer, electricity usage would head in the opposite direction. It would be a curious call for a government ushering in a suite of efficiency measures, including an LED home-installation program. Dang is fashioning his defence, saying the government-plugged shift off conventional bulbs will diminish the past consumption patterns of daylight time. “If those light bulbs are 80 per cent more efficient, suddenly that one per cent (usage change) becomes 0.2 per cent,” he says. “There’s also things like discretionary spending in the evenings; do people spend more money if they’re out and about—does that contribute to the economy?”

The NDP backbencher says he’s heard plenty from urban business groups, golf courses and others about keeping the brighter evenings. North America’s retail sector had originally pushed for adoption of daylight saving, and helped persuade the Bush administration to extend the period by several weeks in a post-9/11 energy policy act (Canada went along with the shift). There’s not only a retail benefit to that extra time before dark: a study found daylight time leads people to burn 10 per cent more calories because of outdoor recreation, though Shaffer cautions that results in America may not be the same further north, where summer nights are already comparatively long. Weigh those factors to the downsides of the shift itself, including a marked increase in fatal vehicle accidents right after the spring time change, and heart attacks linked to sleep disruption.

It is, notes Shaffer, a question pitting “morning people versus afternoon people,” and as the NDP government nears its decision, lovers of those summer nights seem to be carrying the day. Tory MLA Richard Starke, who proposed a shift as well, agrees that brighter evenings are the popular choice.

Yet the extended hours for summer frolicking and patio pints could come at a brutal price during an Alberta winter, delaying December sunrise to 9:40 a.m. in Calgary and 9:50 a.m. in Edmonton. Plus, there would be a sudden two-hour time-zone gap between Jasper, Alta., and Valemount, B.C., towns on either side of the Continental Divide. Albertans may never have to change their clocks again, but the other adjustments could bring their own aggravations.


 

Alberta could get rid of daylight saving time

  1. We should all go to DST…..permanently.

  2. Couldn’t be too soon for me. I have been bitching about this stupidity for years.

  3. Please do this everywhere. We are on DST for 8 months already. Why bother with the four months in between? So winter mornings will be dark. Who cares? It will be light on the way home. I hope the ON legislature is watching. They could pass legislation by next fall so we never have to change the clocks again.

    • YES!

    • LOL In case you folks can’t see my post….it says ‘yes”….then has a line that it’s being ‘moderated’

      The Macleans site is always an adventure.

      • Ahh it’s just Gage again….. I had forgotten her tantrums.

        • Wow….thanks for the shoutout but given that I hadn’t even read the article, you attribute too much power to me. I actually am in favour of permanent day light savings myself. There are a significant number of car accidents when we spring forward. Even though it is only 1 hour, it is hard for the brain to adjust to the loss of sleep and loss of sleep results in lack of attention and accidents.

          • You’ve done this every time you’re in a snit and it’s boring, HI…..so knock it off

        • Emily, play nice.

          Also check the definition of tantrum. I may not always agree with Gage bit he/she always presents thoughtful comments with lots of background. It’s probably a result of the Alberta Education system, now the only one left that has provincial grade 12 examinations in all academic subjects.

          • LOL…..KFO

  4. And as a PS…..there are always 24 hours in a day. What you call them and how you spend them is up to you.

    People often go out to a movie…..or dinner and dancing…..or stay up late to watch a show……and it doesn’t affect their ‘brain’ ….unless they don’t have one.

    So enough of the ‘loss of sleep’ excuse. People aren’t THAT rigid.

  5. Springing ahead and Falling back are really, IMHO, no big deal. Surely some of your readers have flown or driven across timezones before? Would anyone cancel a vacation because, good heavens — it was in another timezone?

  6. In North easter BC we don’t change our clocks. Alberta time in the WInter and BC time in the Summer. only hassle is having to listen to the World at Six, at seven for four months. Maybe that’s appropriate given the current state of world affairs.

  7. As much as I like beer on the patio in the evening, this is not a reason to change time permanently unless you are shooting for beer o’clock being the new norm.

    Our time is based on when the sun crosses the meridian nearest to us and reaches its apex in the sky before setting — a time we call noon and from where we derive the terms a.m. and p.m. on our clocks. This is “standard” time across the planet. We artificially shift noon in the summer months by calling it “daylight time” but we are respecting the fact that there is a scientific mis-match with the real time of day.

    If enough people want to ditch Daylight Savings, sure go ahead, but I truly hope we don’t mess with how we construct a day for whimsical reasons – the sun rises, then it sets, 12:00pm is noon and is the time which divides the two (if you really want get pernickety, Alberta is actually closer to Pacific Time than it is Central Time so fixing us to Central (MDT) would put us way off the reservation).

    • We invented Standard Time.

      We invented Daylight Savings Time

      It’s not sacred you know. We can change it anyway we want.

      And not everybody wants to drink beer on the patio.