Chances are that by the end of next year, permanent daylight saving time (DST) will be an integral part of Canadian life.
Standard time, with its brighter mornings and darker evenings, would be significantly altered by continuously moving it forward one hour. And the ritual of changing the clocks twice a year would come to an end.
The health and economic implications of this change have not been sufficiently studied.
Likewise, the US Senate voted earlier this month for permanent daylight saving time.
It will go into effect across North America in November 2023 if the Senate’s “Sunshine Protection Act” is passed by the US Congress and signed by US President Joe Biden.
If the United States goes ahead with this abrupt change, Canada will adopt it immediately.
In 2005, the United States extended daylight saving time (not daylight saving time, as it is often incorrect) from the second weekend of March to the first weekend of December.
Canada quickly adopted this practice. Our economy demands that Toronto, for example, keep the same time as New York.
America is spearheading this change. But he has the warm support of Ontario Premier Doug Ford and British Columbia Premier John Horgan.
And indeed, there are medical studies showing that in the weeks following each of the semiannual clock changes, there is a disruption in the internal clocks of many people, but not the majority.
These disruptions are said to lead to a higher rate of many major illnesses, including heart attacks, strokes, and crippling levels of anxiety.
The champions of permanent daylight saving time also claim that it is a means of reducing traffic accidents during nighttime rush hours. They claim it would also reduce workplace injuries, caffeine and alcohol consumption, and even the number of robberies.
But the exact cause and effect of these clock-shifting phenomena, which experts call “social jet lag,” remains to be scientifically proven. Many can be seasonal disorders, for example, unrelated to changes in clock settings.
Powerful US business lobbies, led by the US Chamber of Commerce, believe DST would boost revenues for retailers, restaurants and other businesses by up to 3.5%.
That’s the amount by which buying is expected to fall in the weeks following the early December return to standard time, according to a research arm of JPMorgan Chase & Co., the world’s largest bank.
But the real problem here is not daylight saving time or standard time, but the twice-yearly clock change and the disruption it causes.
In this case, we could completely remove daylight saving time and revert to permanent standard time.
Permanent daylight saving time has been tried and rejected several times.
It was used in World War I to save fuel for lighting, but was discontinued after the conflict ended.
Later experiments with permanent DST in the United States in 1973 and in Russia in 2014 and even more recently were quickly abandoned when people complained about prolonged darkness in winter.
Common sense tells us that permanently forwarding the clocks will simply shift the problems associated with DST from one season to the next.
For example, an increase in evening purchases will come at the expense of purchases made earlier in the day – unless supporters of permanent daylight saving time have a plan to expand the economy.
Among them is the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASP), which believes that “seasonal time changes should be abolished in favor of a fixed, national standard time, all year round”.
In Premier Hogan’s British Columbia, permanent daylight saving time would have Vancouverites waiting until around 9 a.m. for sunrise in the winter. Further north in Prince George, sunrise would be delayed until 10:30 a.m.
By contrast, permanent standard time would mean brighter winter mornings, which would help keep people alert in their travels and work.
Conversely, too much light on winter evenings reduces the amount of darkness in which our bodies produce melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep.
Chronic sleep deprivation is already one of our biggest medical problems. It is linked to the same diseases quoted by supporters of permanent daylight saving time.
No time system has ever satisfied everyone. What is wrong here is the rush of politicians to promise us more sunshine.
There is no more sun. It is, like time, a finite resource.
Moving the sun like that is gestural politics, the politics of just looking like you’re doing good.
The health of Canadians will not be improved by a change in the way we tell time. And nothing we do with the clocks will solve income inequality, poor diets or traffic jams.
Faced with these fundamental problems, any change to timekeeping will be less useful than a sundial.