AN EDMONTON NDP MLA and a PC party leadership hopeful both want to scrap Alberta’s practice of switching the clocks to daylight time and back to standard time every year.
I’m with them. The twice-yearly changing of clocks to theoretically make the best of our daylight hours in winter and summer has more drawbacks than gains. The question should be whether we really need to be on standard time at all.
In the deepest winter months, it’s dark when you rise and getting dark when you arrive home from work or school anyway. Being on standard time for two of the four months we still use it doesn’t allow us any special access to sunshine.
In winter, we need to save all the daylight we can, so why not access that time in the afternoon?
Businesses seem to like daylight time. The theory goes that we have an extra hour to spend money while the sun shines at the end of the day.
The twice-yearly changing of clocks to theoretically make the best of our daylight hours has more drawbacks than gains
But the studies on that issue I was able to find suggest any increases in consumer spending as a result of daylight time are not that great, except for gasoline sales in order for people to hit the big box stores outside of town.
A proposal to increase daylight time in the U.S. in 2005 suggested energy savings would accrue, since people wouldn’t need to turn the lights on as much. But when they checked actual experience, researchers found that if there was a bit less power used for lighting with daylight time, there was more use of air conditioning, which is much more energy-intensive.
So leave aside the consumer and energy efficiency arguments – people just want to see more of the sun. In our social order, the best time for that is in the afternoon and evening. All year.
That’s part of the argument of Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke, who is running for the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives.
He claims there’s strong support in the province for just adopting one time scheme, and not switching back and forth.
But being a politician and not a leader, Starke wants to consult deeply and hold a referendum before acting on his convictions. So forget the ability to change things.
Can’t a leader just make the call and do what he or she considers best? (Well, yes, we have that south of the border, and this is probably not the best opportunity to make that point, but there you are.)
Thomas Dang, New Democratic MLA for Edmonton-South West, is more hip. He’s set up an online survey.
I’ve contributed to the survey and you can, too. Go online at albertandpcaucus.ca/daylight-saving-time-survey.
It’s a far better survey than the doomed online study the federal Liberals did on electoral reform. It actually allows you to state a preference.
It also comes with a time chart that’s quite helpful. You’ll learn that if we stayed on daylight time year-round, on Dec. 21, we wouldn’t get sunrise until 9:38 in the morning (using Edmonton time) but kids would have sunshine on the way home from school, and we all would be spared dark-to-work and dark-to-home commutes.
There are plenty of places in Alberta that have less sun in the winter than that. In Fort McMurray in December, there’s no sun for morning or evening commutes to work or school, in either format.
So why not select the format that accommodates most people?
Farmers who have animals under their care don’t like the twice-yearly switch. Truth be told, neither do most of us. You never really get that lost sleep back.
News stories abound about the increased rate of traffic accidents and heart attacks in the days following a switch from standard time to daylight time. That seems to wipe out any purported benefits to society from consumer spending or energy use.
So why switch? Find one format that works, stick with it and let our bodies (and farm animals’ bodies) adapt.
My vote is for daylight time all year round. Go online if you like and add your two cents worth to the survey.
And when you get to retire like me, you could just grab an afternoon nap before some late-day activity – out in the sun.
Greg Neiman is a freelance editor, columnist and blogger living in Red Deer, Alta.
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