Vote on ditching time change would cost millions

EDMONTON — As Albertans ardently debate whether to keep changing their clocks, the government estimates that a referendum on a bill about ending the twice-yearly time change would cost millions.

NDP legislature member Graham Sucha, chair of the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future, said a referendum paired with a provincial election would cost between $2 million and $6 million. Holding a time vote on its own would cost nearly $22 million.

Edmonton senior Orest Windjack told a public consultation hearing Tuesday that he’s in favour of continuing to turn clocks back one hour in the fall and move them ahead one hour in the spring. But he suggested a vote may be the best way to go.

“Put it on a ballot when we have an election,” he told the five-member hearing panel.

Others who turned out for the meeting were divided on the issue. One woman said the government shouldn’t ”fight nature” by making the time change in the spring and fall.

Earlier this year, NDP backbencher Thomas Dang spearheaded the private member’s bill that would put Alberta on central standard time year round, like Saskatchewan. It would be called Alberta Standard Time.

Alberta would be in sync with its neighbour to the east all year long and stay one hour ahead of British Columbia in the summer. But it would end up two hours ahead of B.C. in the winter.

Daylight time has been a long-running controversy in Alberta since it was brought in by plebiscite in 1971. Critics say it’s outdated and annoying, interrupts sleep and causes confusion.

The committee has also met with businesses, including WestJet, that believe ditching the time change would lead to economic losses, said NDP committee member Richard Gotfried. He suggested spending a few million dollars on a referendum might be worth it.

“It will be a one-time cost to make that decision — to give Albertans their voice — versus what could be an ongoing cost of millions of dollars in lost economic opportunity for Alberta.”

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