This past weekend, most Canadians outside of Saskatchewan rolled their clocks back by an hour, switching back from daylight saving time to standard time. Along with the time change comes the biannual debate over whether it’s a sensible practice at all.
Even in the fall, when sleepers gain an hour of shut eye, the time change disrupts the body’s daily pattern of sleepiness and wakefulness in the same way that jet lag does. This leads to widespread loss of productivity, and can even lead to more serious health complications in the days after the time change, like heart attacks and suicide attempts.
But for the sake of argument, let’s say that we agree to stop changing our clocks. Should we permanently keep our clocks at standard time, favouring brighter mornings? Or should we adopt daylight time all year round in a nod to brighter evenings?
Alberta recently hosted this exact debate after 75 percent of respondents to a government survey were in favour of abandoning the time change. Although the bill to enact it was ultimately scrapped, months of public hearings pointed to adopting daylight time over standard time, which would have effectively converted Alberta to central time, keeping it in sync with its neighbour Saskatchewan year round.
By contrast, Alberta would have been a full two hours ahead of its other neighbour, British Columbia, for four months of the year, and one hour ahead the rest of the time.
Yes, since the four-week extension of daylight saving in Canada in 2007, most Canadians have already been observing daylight time for eight months of the year.
There are two main drivers in the push for permanent daylight time. Firstly, research suggests that brighter evenings are good for public safety. One study estimates a reduction in pedestrian and traffic fatalities, and another found a reduction in robberies and violent crimes when daylight time comes into effect in the spring.
Secondly, brighter evenings encourage more evening activity, including after school sports. It also encourages adults to stay more active, all while spending more money and stimulating the economy.
As several states in New England are currently contemplating the permanent switch to daylight time, the same debate is likely to emerge again soon for Canadians in the maritimes. But for now, as the darkest days of winter are approaching, at least the early morning hours will be a little warmer.