Daylight saving: Is it time to abolish the time shift?
Meredith MacLeod, Special to CTVNews.ca
Published Friday, March 11, 2016 2:48PM EST
While many Canadians will be struggling to haul themselves out of bed Monday morning, thanks to losing an hour of sleep when the clocks change over the weekend, for residents of places like Atikokan in Northern Ontario it will be business as usual.
The mining-based town, located about two hours’ drive from Thunder Bay, is one of three Ontario communities that don’t observe daylight time where clocks are put back an hour in the fall and ahead an hour in spring.
There are also pockets of British Columbia, Quebec and Nunavut, along with all of Saskatchewan that don’t change their clocks.
Atikokan Mayor Dennis Brown says his town has never used daylight time but it continues to be a controversial issue. There is talk about putting the question of whether to switch to daylight time on the ballot for the next municipal election, he says.
“A lot of people would like to be on Thunder Bay time year round. Most business here is done there,” said Brown. There are also some who would like an extra hour of daylight on summer nights.
It’s also confusing when the DST shift comes elsewhere. Atikokan is in sync with Fort Frances to the west in the summer but Thunder Bay to the east in the winter.
But there are some benefits to not observing daylight time, says Brown, including an earlier end to hockey games and an hour advantage on watching the national news.
These non-daylight time converts may be ahead of the curve.
There is a growing movement in the United States and Europe to either keep daylight time year-round or abandon it entirely. About 10 U.S. states have proposed legislation to kill the time shifts.
“The evidence is mounting that the pattern we’re using isn’t efficient and isn’t delivering the results it was supposed to,” said Werner Antweiler, an economics professor at the University of British Columbia who has studied the economic and social effects of daylight time.
The system was widely adopted during the First World War as a means to save fuel for lighting.
But in recent years, there has been growing evidence that daylight time has some serious effects, including higher incidents of traffic and workplace accidents, heart attacks, and reduced productivity in the days after the shift.
“The effects may only affect a small number of people but when it’s multiplied across almost the entire population, that’s a lot of effect,” said Antweiler, who teaches at the Sauder School of Business.
“When you do a cost-benefit analysis of shifting clocks forward and back, it just doesn’t add up,” he said.
And Antweiler says there is no proof the policy saves energy and it may, in fact, boost energy use.
A study of Indiana, which only introduced daylight saving time in 2007 with U.S. federal reform of the system, found the average household is now spending $3 more a month than it was before the shift.
That’s because there is an increased use of air conditioning in the summer when daylight hours are extended.
Antweiler would rather see a year-round adoption of daylight time for Canada and an elimination of the time shifts in fall and spring. That’s the system used in Saskatchewan.
He says that would eliminate the spike of accidents and production drop associated with the time shifts, but allow for the benefits of more daylight in the evening.
But he expects that Canada will only make the move if the United States does it first.
Bob Dieno of Kamloops, B.C. is spearheading a petition to end daylight time in the province.
"It's amazing what one hour does to the body and people's mental health," he said.
The petition has more than 25,000 signatures. Dieno says he had meetings last fall with health minister Terry Lake and transportation minister Todd Stone, who are both Kamloops-area MLAs. Dieno, who owns a fire safety company, said both ministers indicated they would want to see the entire Pacific time zone, including Washington, Oregon and California, move in the same direction on daylight time.
"They said they wouldn't want to be out of sync but Arizona and Saskatchewan do it."