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B.C.’s daylight debate: morning or evening sun

Time change may end; not everyone agrees with sole option offered

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By Alex Antrobus

With Premier John Horgan hinting this spring will mark the last time B.C. observes Daylight Savings Time, British Columbians will need to revisit an issue that experts are divided on: whether our mornings or evenings should receive more light.

When the B.C. government conducted a province-wide survey in 2019, Horgan offered only one alternative to the practice of time change: permanent DST, which was selected by 93 per cent of participants. Permanent Standard Time, which adds an hour of morning sunlight, was never an option offered.

But while proponents of DST have cited economic benefits, health experts favour Standard Time, emphasizing the importance of our sleep cycles.

Healthy sleep cycles vs. democracy

Dr. Raymond Lam, a UBC psychiatry professor specializing in mood disorders and mental health, is one of such experts.

He, along with five others, signed an open letter to the B.C. government in October 2019. In it, they argued that DST reduces exposure to morning sunlight throughout the year, which can lead to “sleep deprivation and social jetlag.”

“If we use Daylight Savings Time throughout the year,” Lam said, “there’s more of a disconnect between our internal clock and the available daylight, which is kind of the natural clock.”

UBC economics professor Werner Antweiler, who advocates for permanent Daylight Savings Time, has cited energy savings in the past as a reason to stick with permanent DST, but now points to broad popularity as the primary reason for his position.

Energy conservation was the original main reason for DST. The argument was that with more daylight, people would be using less lighting and therefore less energy.

“Of course, that has become a completely obsolete issue now that they have efficient lighting,” said Antweiler. “Especially now that we have all moved to LED in the last sort of decade.”

Waiting for West Coast U.S.A.

Horgan said last October that if the United States didn’t get its act together, he would suggest “this is the last season of falling back and springing forward.”

But Horgan may have been hinting at a change that won’t happen as soon as he’d hoped, said Antweiler.

For economics’ sake, Antweiler believes it is likely the change will be delayed until Washington, Oregon and California pass their legislation first, allowing for easier collaboration with cross-border business partnerships.

“For British Columbia, the big question is when will the United States move, because the argument is that we shouldn’t be moving towards a different time schedule (without them),” Antweiler said. “It has always been tradition that we are in sync with the United States and their time zones.”

Students not so interested

Ultimately, Langara students interviewed cared little — if at all — about whether DST or Standard Time should be adopted. Instead, any focus was largely on getting rid of it.

“There’s a lot of issues that I care a lot about. Daylight savings: not one of them,” said Sarah Conway. “I’m not usually in favour of the economic option, that’s my go-to. But yeah, whatever the doctors say is good, I’ll take. I like light.”

Sebastian Ley, a student in the Studio 58 acting program, said the practice is archaic.

“It comes from a time when 90 per cent of the middle and lower class was doing hard manual labour and they had to get to the factory and get back before sunset,” said Ley.

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