A raging debate south of the border could have a huge impact on everything from your work schedule to your morning commute.
It’s tough for the United States Congress to agree on much, but the U.S. Senate passed a bill by unanimous consent on March 15 that would make Daylight Saving Time (DST) permanent across the country beginning in 2023. This bill could kickstart the time change debate in Canada, a switch that could have a significant impact on your winter routines.
U.S. ‘SUNSHINE PROTECTION ACT’ SEEKS LONGER EVENINGS
If the Sunshine Protection Act passes the U.S. House and President Joe Biden signs it into law, the country would stop observing the twice-yearly time change and stick their clocks an hour forward for the entire year.
Such a move would be wildly popular with a vast swath of Americans, especially in northern communities where the midwinter sun sets relatively early in the afternoon.
This shift could prove even more popular in Canada, where winter days are often far shorter than even the shortest day in the contiguous U.S.
If the U.S. makes the switch to permanent DST, it could boost longtime efforts to keep the clocks in one position across Canada and put pressure on provincial and federal politicians to follow suit.
British Columbia Premier John Horgan welcomed the news from Washington this week.
“For British Columbia families who have just had to cope with the disruptions of changing the clocks, this brings us another step toward ending the time changes permanently,” Horgan tweeted in response to the bill’s passage.
WATCH: 9 DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME FACTS THAT WILL KEEP YOU UP TONIGHT
WHAT WOULD YEAR-ROUND DST LOOK LIKE IN CANADA?
While there are some communities in places like Saskatchewan and the Yukon that stick with one time all year, most of Canada still springs forward in March and falls back in November. The seesaw back and forth can disrupt schedules and sleep cycles alike.
Proponents of DST argue that the benefits outweigh the potential downsides. Steve Calandrillo, professor of law at the University of Washington, argued back in 2020 that year-round Daylight Saving Time would make the evening commute safer, reduce crime, help to save energy, and improve quality of sleep.
While more sunlight in the evening would make life a little sweeter for folks who enjoy some outdoors time after they get off work, sticking with DST all year would also pose some oft-overlooked problems.
The biggest and most obvious change would be the delayed sunrise. Shifting the sunset an hour later would also make the sunrise an hour later, and that extra hour of morning darkness would be a significant adjustment for many folks across Canada.
Sunrise wouldn’t take place until or after 9:00 a.m. for much of the country during the heart of winter. Take sunrise times across the country on New Year’s Day: on the first day of the year, the sun wouldn’t come up until 8:51 a.m. in Toronto, 9:07 a.m. in Vancouver, and not until almost 10:00 a.m. in Edmonton.
There are other issues with permanent DST beyond a simple lack of morning sunshine.
Darker mornings would heighten the danger of commuting by foot in cities and neighbourhoods alike, and the time shift would force many young children to walk to school or wait for the bus in the dark during the winter months.
Extended morning darkness would also push low visibility and colder temperatures deeper into the morning commute, potentially making your drive into work more hazardous on mornings when roads are icy or covered with snow. It’s tough to navigate a slippery road in traffic under the best conditions, let alone when it’s still pitch black outside.
If the United States sees the Sunshine Protection Act pass into law, the permanent time shift wouldn’t take place until fall 2023.
There’s no guarantee that it would last, either.
Congress experimented with permanent Daylight Saving Time back in 1973 in an attempt to save energy. The dark mornings were such a widely despised disruption that Congress reversed course and reinstated seasonal time changes the following year.
Thumbnail courtesy of Venrick Azcueta via Unsplash.