Albertans are set to “fall back” one hour to revert to standard time this weekend.
The change to standard time from daylight time will be effective at 2 a.m. on Sunday. After the change sunrise and sunset will be an hour earlier than the day before.
Albertans chose to continue to change their clocks twice a year when voters were asked in a referendum on Oct. 18, 2021, “do you want Alberta to adopt year-round daylight time, which is summer hours, eliminating the need to change our clocks twice a year?”
Of those who cast ballots, 50.2 per cent answered “no” while 49.8 per cent said “yes.”
In Edmonton, 54.6 per cent of voters responded “no” and 45.4 per cent said “yes.” In Calgary, 51.5 per cent voted “no” and 48.5 per cent voted “yes.”
A total of 38.7 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots in the daylight time referendum.
Then-premier Jason Kenney said at a news conference after releasing the results the government will respect the outcome of the referendum and not pursue the matter any further.
“The context here of course is that all of our neighbouring jurisdictions, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Yukon, the northwestern U.S. states, are all in the process of moving to year round daylight time and we thought it was important to consult Albertans on whether they wanted to follow suit,” he said.
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“It’s as close as it gets to a tie, I think with about a 2,500 vote difference, but we respect, certainly, the majority in that referendum.”
The option to standardize daylight time was an effort by the province to follow neighbouring jurisdictions, said Nate Glubish in 2019 when he was Service Alberta minister. Currently, he’s minister of technology and innovation.
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a number of other provinces, territories and U.S. states starting to move in the direction of standardizing and getting off of the system of changing the clocks twice a year,” he said.
“The important thing is that we don’t get out of step with our neighbouring jurisdictions, and almost all of these jurisdictions moving in this direction are choosing to standardize onto daylight time.”
In a similar survey in British Columbia in 2019, 93 per cent of respondents wanted to move to permanent daylight time, which led to that province introducing legislation to stop changing the clocks. However, the province has not ended the time change yet because it is waiting for Washington State, Oregon and California to end their time change, as having the same time has more economic benefits, according to former premier John Horgan.
Washington State and California are waiting for federal approval after they have passed state legislature bills to remain on permanent daylight time in 2018 and 2019. Oregon has a bill introduced but not yet voted on.
If given federal approval, these states would join Arizona, Hawaii, Saskatchewan and parts of British Columbia as jurisdictions that do not change time, states the Government of B.C.’s website.
Meanwhile, Rébecca Robillard, co-chair of the Canadian Sleep Research Consortium, told Postmedia in an interview the practice of falling back an hour in the fall and springing forward an hour in the spring is being pushed to be abolished “from a scientific standpoint.” However, she advocates for a permanent standard time because a permanent daylight time would limit the time we get light exposure in the morning.
“Actually, next week, we’re having a round table with people from across disciplines from different medical fields and psychology and psychiatry” to discuss this issue, Robillard said.
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She says they have some evidence showing that there might be some increases in the risks of adverse mental health effects when changing the time.
“From a a perspective of what we understand is happening at the behavioral and physiological level with daylight time, there’s a rational for it as well,” Robillard said.
“Basically, what happens during daylight time is a switch around the sleep-wake schedule, so that people lose or gain one hour. But, it’s not just that. It’s also a switch in the alignment between the internal biological clock and the external time and the light-dark cycle. And we know that the biological clock is not just regulating the sleep-wake cycle, it’s regulating a whole range of body functions in the body and in the brain.”
She said that changes in the biological clock increase stress and anxiety levels.
“There have been reports of increased admissions linked to, kind of, mental health problems and, for example, substance abuse as well,” Robillard said.
She said the effects are more likely to happen in the spring when we switch to daylight time since we’d be not only losing an hour of sleep, but also minimizing the light in the morning.
“The reasons behind daylight time, historically, were linked to energy saving reasons which are no longer valid in the world, the world that we live right now,” she said.
“The effects are more pronounced in the spring when we’re actually losing an hour of sleep, and we’re kind of drastically changing the exposure to light in the morning.”
And to cope with the negative effects not only in the spring, but also in the fall, she suggests people boost their exposure to sunlight in the morning while making sure they adjust their sleeping schedule.
“So going outdoors, getting some sunshine and looking after our sleep to make a shift that’s as progressive as possible. We can also start a little bit before the daylight time change so that it’s less of an abrupt transition,” Robillard said.
“We’re also entering the winter months where we have less light, which can also be disruptive for mood and for sleep and a lot of other functions.”
— With files from Blair McBride