When Albertans head to the ballot box in October, they will be faced with several referendum questions, including ending the practice of springing forward and falling back.
The official question on the ballot: “Do you want Alberta to adopt year-round Daylight Saving Time, which is summer hours, eliminating the need to change our clocks twice a year?”
According to the province, the decision to add the question to the ballot came after results of a 2019 survey of 141,000 Albertans showed 91 per cent of respondents were in favour of moving to permanent Daylight Saving Time.
“Personally, I don’t care, but for my kids sake — it’s tough on them, so if we could keep it the same, that would be great,” Pamela Quinn told Global News. “For school and bed times, it would be easier if we could just keep it the same.”
But some Albertans don’t want to end the bi-annual time change.
“I think they should just keep it as is, don’t change it,” Brendon Zelisq said.
Calgarian Blaire Cook said he is indifferent to the ballot question and added he’s changed his clocks twice a year his entire life.
“It wouldn’t matter to us if they changed it or if it stayed the same,” he said.
However, Michael Antle, a chrono-biologist at the University of Calgary, believes the change to permanent Daylight Saving Time would be a far tougher adjustment than the weeks following a time change.
“Workers in the morning and be tired, drivers in the morning will be tired, students at school are going to have a really rough time,” Antle told Global News.
According to Antle, the change would be felt in the winter with sunrises an hour later in Alberta and even later in more northern regions of the province.
“One of the problems we have living so far north is seasonal affective disorder, seasonal depression, and a lot of that comes from the lack of light, and specifically, it’s the morning light that our circadian clock requires,” Antle said.
“We’ll be missing that a critical part, our clocks run a little slow and they need morning light to actually keep them on Alberta time.”
Last year, the Yukon announced the move to permanent Daylight Saving Time, while Saskatchewan eliminated the time changes in 1966 and observes Central Standard Time year-round.
Russia also adopted Daylight Saving Time in 2012, but switched back two years later. According to Antle, two long, harsh winters prompted the country to switch to standard time instead.
Antle also noted a similar situation in the United States during the energy crisis in 1973, but reverted back to the previous practice halfway through the first winter following the change.
“A significant number of kids were actually killed waiting for the bus in the morning,” Antle said. “People have attributed it to driving in the dark, but it’s actually driving while sleepy. That’s the problem.”
Alberta had previously explored the idea of adopting permanent Daylight Saving Time under the former NDP government, but scrapped the idea after concerns raised by the airline industry, ski resorts and even professional sports leagues.
According to the province, the vote on the time change question on October 18 “will be binding.”
“Decisions around execution will not be made before the outcome of the referendum,” Service Alberta ministry spokesperson Taylor Hides said in a statement. “All decisions taken will balance the will of Albertans, the concerns of the business community, and the larger context of what other governments are considering.”
Meanwhile, Antle is lobbying against voting “yes” on the ballot question, and added he would prefer to see the province consider moving to Standard Time instead.
“The standard time is the more natural, it’s where our our clock on the wall matches better what the sun is doing,” Antle said. “Our body clock or circadian clock follows the sun, it’s going to do that no matter what the clock in the wall says. And so you want to try to minimize the conflict between what the clock in the wall says and and what the sun does.”
—with files from Global News’ Adam Toy