By Jay Denney
It’s one of the longest ongoing debates in the public sphere – should we keep changing our clocks twice a year, or not? For as long as anyone can remember, it is an issue that pops up twice a year, gets debated for a week or so, and then the sun sets on the conversation yet again (either an hour earlier or later than when the debate started).
2017, however, has been different. The Alberta Legislature recently studied the matter, and ultimately voted to keep observing Daylight Saving Time (DST). And in B.C., MLA Linda Larson has introduced a Private Member’s Bill to scrap DST province-wide. The argument in favour of keeping clocks the same year-round tends to focus on the first two three days after the spring ahead or fall back, mainly on the effects on health and increased auto and workplace accidents.
But what about the impact on the B.C. business community? Currently, B.C. maintains the same local time year-round with the US West Coast, which is a benefit to our burgeoning tech sector, who frequently interacts with other tech hubs in Seattle and Silicon Valley, just as the TV and film production sector does with Hollywood. They also maintain a permanent one-hour time difference with their Alberta neighbours, and a three-hour time difference with the major financial networks in Toronto and New York. Affixing to either Standard or Daylight Savings Time would throw all of those time relationships off-kilter for part of the year (see Fig.2). Could that be harmful to business development? Would U.S. based tech firms choose to grow their businesses state-side, thus slowing their recent expansions in B.C.? Would it impact where resource companies choose to locate their offices? Would it have an impact on jobs and opportunities in the financial sector?
One area it would certainly have an impact on would be transportation. Take for example, direct flights from Vancouver to Toronto, one of the busiest routes in the country. Currently, a flight leaving Vancouver lands in Toronto roughly 7.5 hours later (4.5 hours flying time plus 3 hour time change). If B.C. were to affix to a single time, that schedule goes off by an hour for half of the year, impacting connections, crew scheduling and ground operations, particularly with the first and last flights of each day. This could prompt Air Canada and WestJet to re-evaluate flight frequencies into and out of B.C. communities. In fact, WestJet was quite vocal during the Alberta Legislature’s study of the matter, and had projected a negative impact on air travel and connections in Calgary and Edmonton.
Further, while many people think changing the clocks is an outdated practice, there is less agreement as to which should be made permanent. Keeping standard time year round would mean an earlier sunrise and sunset in the spring and summer, while fixing to daylight savings time would keep the late summer evenings we are used to, but mean darker morning and later sunsets in the winter. Whatever choice is made, again it would have economic impacts. Take seasonal summer businesses for example. Many of them, such as boat and bike rental companies, and golf courses, rely on the late evening daylight to generate revenue. Would the business they lose from an earlier sunset be offset by having daylight at 3:45 in the morning? Not likely.
Most people can agree that the first few days after a time change are annoying, either because we’ve lost an hour of sleep in the spring, or because it is dark out by 4:00 pm in the fall. And we get cranky and say we just stop doing this already. But we shouldn’t be so quick to make that switch without thoroughly studying its full impact. At the very least, we should sleep on it… preferably for an extra hour in the fall.
Jay Denney is a long-time political advisor, with past experience as a Ministerial Chief of Staff in the BC Government, and as Director of Communications to former federal Cabinet Minister Stockwell Day.