Neiman: Daylight time and twice-changed clocks: The snooze you lose

One Edmonton NDP MLA and one PC party leadership hopeful both want to scrap Alberta’s practice of switching the clocks twice a year to daylight time and back again to standard time for four months of the year.

I’m with them. The twice-yearly changing of our clocks to theoretically make the best of our daylight hours in winter and in summer has more drawbacks than gains. The question today should be about whether we really need to be on standard time at all anymore.

In the deepest winter months, it’s dark when you rise and getting dark when you get 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 having sun in our eyes. 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.

But the studies on that issue I was able to find suggest that any increases in consumer spending as a result of daylight time are not that great, except for gasoline sales, for people hitting the big box stores outside of town.

A proposal to increase daylight time adoption in the U.S. in 2005 suggested energy savings would accrue, as 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 Stark, who is also in the running for leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives.

He claims there is strong support in the province for the notion of just adopting one time scheme, and not switching back and forth.

But, being a politician and not a leader, Stark wants to consult deeply and hold an actual referendum before acting on his convictions. So forget the ability to change things.

A gripe: 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 this point, but there you are.)

Thomas Dang, NDP MLA for Edmonton-Southwest, 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 that 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 is quite helpful. You will learn that if we stuck ourselves on daylight time year-round, on Dec. 21, we wouldn’t get sunrise until 9:38 in the morning, (I’m using Edmonton time here) but kids would have sun in the sky 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 us. In Fort McMurray, in December there’s no sun for morning or evening commutes to work or to 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 just 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 our farm animals’ bodies) adapt just once.

My vote is for daylight time all year round. Go online if you like, and get your two cents worth registered in the online 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 retired Advocate editor.


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