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Clocks may spring forward this weekend, but opposition mounts

'This ritual of changing time twice a year is stupid,' says Republican politician, while sleep researchers would also prefer permanent move to standard time

There doesn't seem to be much middle ground when it comes to Daylight Saving Time — people love it or hate it.

Regardless, we'll be moving the hands on our clocks ahead one hour this weekend in advance of the summer months. The result is to extend daylight hours in the evening. That often makes people happy as it means summer and warmer temperatures are just around the corner.

Conversely, it will also be darker in the morning.

The idea of Daylight Saving Time was first proposed in 1784 by Benjamin Franklin, who believed that by adjusting the time, people could make better use of the daylight hours and reduce the use of candles. However, it wasn't until the First World War that Daylight Saving Time was widely adopted by countries as a way to conserve energy and increase productivity.

The primary purpose of Daylight Saving Time is to take advantage of the long summer days by shifting the clock forward one hour in the spring and back one hour in the fall. This means that people get an extra hour of daylight in the evenings, which allows them to enjoy outdoor activities like gardening, sports, and spending time with family and friends.

There are also some drawbacks to the practice. One of the main criticisms of Daylight Saving Time is that it disrupts people's sleep patterns. Moving the clock forward or backward by an hour can cause people to feel jet-lagged for several days, which can reduce productivity and increase the risk of accidents.

Additionally, some studies have shown that Daylight Saving Time can increase the risk of heart attacks, particularly in people who have pre-existing heart conditions.

Raymond Lam, a University of British Columbia (UBC) professor and B.C. leadership chair in depression research, says circadian scientists, sleep researchers and clinicians generally agree that a permanent move to standard time would be preferred.

"All the circadian and sleep researchers are clear that permanent standard time should be adopted, we should not have the time-zone change ... for the sake of our health," he said. "Unfortunately, for whatever reason, we can't figure it out."

Another issue with Daylight Saving Time is that its effectiveness in reducing energy consumption is disputed. While some studies have shown that Daylight Saving Time can lead to energy savings, other studies have found no significant difference in energy use between areas that observe Daylight Saving Time and those that do not.

This suggests that the impact of Daylight Saving Time on energy consumption may be minimal and that other factors like weather, economic conditions, and population density may have a greater impact on energy use.

Canada first observed Daylight Saving Time in 1908. On July 1 of that year, the residents of Port Arthur, Ont. — today known as Thunder Bay — turned their clocks forward by one hour to start the world's first Daylight Saving Time period. Other locations in Canada soon followed suit. 

The debate about ending seasonal time changes gained traction in Ontario in October 2020 when then-legislator Jeremy Roberts tabled a private member's bill that would end the twice-a-year time change in Ontario, if Quebec and New York did the same. 

The bill passed with unanimous support and would have the province on permanent daylight time. Quebec Premier François Legault suggested he wasn't opposed but said the matter wasn't a priority, and no one else has taken up Roberts' cause in the Ontario legislature since he was voted out of office.

British Columbia passed similar legislation the year prior to sticking with daylight time, but is also waiting on some southern states to do the same. 

Yukon decided in 2020 to no longer make seasonal changes and now follows its own standard time zone. Saskatchewan hasn't changed its clocks in more than 100 years, with the exception of Lloydminster, which straddles the boundary with Alberta.

A unified end to time changes seemed closer to becoming reality after the U.S. Senate unanimously approved Republican Sen. Marco Rubio's Sunshine Protection Act, which would make daylight time permanent across the country and, by effect, much of Canada. 

The bill still needs to be passed by the House of Representatives before President Joe Biden can sign off on it, but it may have received new life with Republicans controlling the House. If the federal bill gets through, that would allow U.S. states to enact their own changes, which would trigger changes in Canada.

Last week, Rubio reintroduced the Sunshine Protection Act, which would allow daylight time to be made permanent.

“This ritual of changing time twice a year is stupid. Locking the clock has overwhelming bipartisan and popular support. This Congress, I hope that we can finally get this done.” 

U.S. Representative Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) introduced companion legislation in the House: “There are enormous health and economic benefits to making Daylight Saving Time permanent. Florida lawmakers have already voted to make Daylight Saving Time permanent in my home state and Congress should pass the Sunshine Protection Act to move Florida and the rest of the country to year-round Daylight Saving Time.” 

A one-pager of the bill is available here.

But despite popular opinion and government legislation, experts say permanent daylight time could have detrimental effects on people's health and it's standard time that governments should shift to. 

That's because standard time is more in line with our natural circadian rhythm and internal biological clock, they said. 

A June 2022 report submitted to Canadian Sleep Society by researchers at the University of Ottawa and Université de Montréal recommended federal and provincial governments move to yearlong standard time and consult with scientists before implementing changes.

University of Calgary professor Michael Antle, who studies circadian rhythms, said early morning light keeps our bodies synchronized to the day-night cycle when days are really short in the winter, and permanent daylight time would cause "chronic harm from being chronically desynchronized."

Antle said research indicates permanent daylight time would force us to get up an hour earlier for work and school in the winter, which could increase traffic and workplace accidents and see students' performance in school drop, all due to a lack of alertness.

"We've never had that experience in Canada of waking up on permanent daylight time in the winter, so people think it's not going to be so bad until they try it," he said. 

Antle pointed to Russia, a country as far north as Canada, which moved to permanent daylight time in 2011 only to abandon it three years later.

"They just couldn't tolerate it ... everybody who's tried it has abandoned it," said Antle, adding he wouldn't be surprised if Yukon soon reconsiders its decision.

Werner Antweiler, a professor at the UBC's Sauder School of Business, said the original incentive for daylight time was an economic move to harvest daylight for longer periods of daily activity, in an effort to conserve energy. Today, the idea has been made obsolete by better technology and more efficient lighting.

Antweiler said there is a strong incentive for Canada's time zones to be standardized with the U.S., since much of the countries' economic activity and businesses are integrated in the north-south direction, rather than east-west.

"If they move in one way, we're compelled to do it the same way," he said. "But it's all stalled still because it takes a long time for everything to get harmonized and everybody agreeing on which direction we're moving."

It won’t be until Sunday, Nov. 5, at 2 a.m. that the clock will fall back when Daylight Saving Time ends.

So when you go to bed tonight (March 11), don’t forget to put your clocks ahead an hour, as Daylight Saving begins March 12.

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Jeff Turl

About the Author: Jeff Turl

Jeff is a veteran of the news biz. He's spent a lengthy career in TV, radio, print and online, covering both news and sports. He enjoys free time riding motorcycles and spoiling grandchildren.
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