Alberta is not the most famous of the Canadian provinces. It’s probably best known as the home of Calgary, and the 1988 Winter Olympics, which became even more famous because that’s when the Jamaican Bobsled team made its international debut, as featured in the Disney film Cool Runnings.
But Alberta may soon be known for something else: Fixing Daylight Saving Time.
Photo of the Bow River east of Downtown Calgary by Igor Kyryliuk
You see, while there have been dozens of state and provincial legislatures that have debated or passed bills that would #LockTheClock, there has never been a binding vote of the people. That will all change on October 18, 2021.
(Yes, there was a vote in California, but it wasn’t binding. It was a complex, procedural bill, and even though it was worded into a pretzel on the ballot, voters thought that it might help to end the clock-changing madness, so they approved it by a wide margin.)
That means that Alberta voters are now the first people in the world who will get to have a direct say in ending the clock madness since the passage of the Uniform Time Act of 1966 in the U.S. While that law wasn’t binding on Canada, the provinces have hewn closely to the U.S. since then.
So, if you are a registered Alberta voter, how should you vote? I’ll break it down for you here:
What is the DST language I’ll be voting on?
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?
By the way, this language is great, I think. It’s even shorter and more clear than the language that I recommended when I first wrote about this. I thought they might want to ask two questions: 1. Should we stop changing the clocks? and 2. What time zone should we lock in to?
The officials decided to make it much more clear and direct. It’s true, there will be some in the strident and vocal minority who will complain about the lack of an option to stay in Standard Time year-round, but it would appear that there are even fewer of them in Canada than there are in the U.S.
And there aren’t many here.
The people coming up with that language were probably informed by a survey done early in 2020 showing that 91 percent of those surveyed by the government wanted to stick to the summer time year-round. Why go to the hassle of two questions when you know that one of the options doesn’t even have the support of 10 percent of the electorate?
So, we know that nearly everyone in Alberta likes the idea of year-round Daylight Saving Time, but when it comes time to vote, individual voters may have some concerns, and want to know all of what’s involved. I’ll break it down here as clearly as possible.
Reasons to Vote Yes for permanent Daylight Saving Time
Survey after survey has confirmed that people hate changing the clocks, and that’s been true forever.
The thing that’s changed in recent years is a raft of research showing that it’s not just unpopular, it’s deadly. I’ve written about this a lot, and if you want to do your own research, you can do that here.
So, if it is actually deadly, and if the legislatures in the provinces and the states know that, why hasn’t it changed? The answer is that while legislatures are made up of “leaders” there is often a hesitancy to get too far out in front on any issue. A lot of stuff gets debated, and sometimes even passed, but so far all the votes have been to change only if some number of other nearby states/provinces also move.
All that to say, one of the pros of voting yes is that you will send a message to the politicians that you really do want them to fix this, and fix it right away. That is a message that will be heard in Alberta, and if I have anything to do with it (and I do) I’ll make sure that lawmakers all over the U.S. hear about it, too.
The concern from some lawmakers has been that they don’t want their province/state to be out of synch with their neighbors. That’s legitimate, but one only needs to look at Arizona to realize that’s not really a big issue. That state does not change clocks, and the people there love it. One time a legislator proposed that Arizona should start changing clocks just to help with business, and he go so overwhelmed with constituent pushback that he actually held a press conference to announce that he was killing his own bill. Oh, and if business is suffering in Arizona, it’s hard to see how as that is one of the fastest growing and most prosperous states in the U.S.
In short, the pro side of voting yes is that you will get what you want — permanent Daylight Saving Time — and you may just help the rest of Canada and the U.S. get it, too.
Reasons to vote no
I’m clearly advocating that you vote yes, but there is one legitimate reason to vote no: Perhaps you like changing the clocks twice per year? If so, I guess you could vote no, in spite of the fact that you’ll be putting your neighbors at risk by doing so.
Let’s say you are a person who just doesn’t really care that much… You adjust easily to the time change. You think you might want to vote no just to make it less confusing for the neighbors of Alberta. Sorry, but that’s just not that good of a reason. Again, see Arizona. It’s slightly confusing for others dealing with that state, but it doesn’t actually cost any business.
Another reason to vote no would be that you prefer staying on Standard Time, the time we use in the winter, all year long. That’s a legitimate point of view, it just happens to be a very small minority. As we saw in that poll from the provincial government, you are among less than 10 percent of the population.
So, you could vote no just because that’s your preference, but two things about that:
- You’ll lose. This thing is going to pass by a wide margin. And…
- You’ll be hurting the cause that people like you who prefer the winter time and people who prefer the summer time agree on, which is that it’s crazy to change the clocks twice a year.
If this measure in Alberta passes two-to-one or better, it will send a really strong message to all of Canada and the U.S.
And once you’ve done away with the clock changing, if it turns out that the winter mornings really are too dark for too long, you can go to the government and ask for one last change — a change to permanent Standard Time. If enough of your fellow citizens agree, that will be a much easier change to make.
Is there anything else I should know before voting in Alberta?
Not really. There’s lots and lots of research, and you can certainly read all of that.
But at the most basic level, this is something proper for you and the voters of Alberta to vote on. After all, the whole idea of time is that it is an agreement. In a modern society, we all need to agree on what it means that a flight leaves at 10:15 a.m., or that a radio program starts at 2 p.m., or that we are going to meet some friends for a beverage at 6:30 p.m. That’s what time really is.
Given that time is an agreement among people, it makes perfect sense that the people of Alberta get to declare: We don’t want to change our agreed-on time twice a year any more. Just set the clock, and leave it. We don’t need to be sleep-deprived in the spring. We don’t need it to be pitch-black at 5 p.m. on November 7th. Just set the clocks for summer time, and leave them there all year, OK?
If you do vote to end the clock changing by a wide, wide margin, that will be the alarm clock that will be heard around the world.