Daylight Time in January? Canada considered it amid the 1970s oil crisis

When the United States enacted daylight time as a response to the energy crisis in December 1973, Canada had to debate whether to follow suit.

Kids would end up going to school in the dark

The U.S. sets clocks ahead during the energy crisis of 1974. Should Canada follow suit? 2:21

Daylight time is about to come to an end for another year in Canada, not to return until spring is around the corner in March.

Children would be going to school in the dark if Canada brought in daylight time in January 1974. (CBC Archives)

But in January 1974, Canadians were embroiled in a debate about bringing it back in the depths of winter — all because of our neighbours to the south.

"The Americans say the extra hour of daylight will save about 150,000 barrels of oil a day," said the CBC's Larry Stout, explaining why the U.S. was about to bring back daylight time year-round.

An emergency measure

An energy crisis had engulfed the United States and according to the Globe and Mail, the move to daylight time was "among several emergency measures requested by the President ... to help meet the energy shortage."     

But in January, dawn was still breaking in many Canadian cities at 7:30 a.m. Pushing the clocks forward by an hour would mean cars were still using headlights at the height of the morning rush hour.

Daylight time in January would make no difference to Saskatchewan, which stayed on standard time year-round. (CBC Archives)

"Parents objected to sending their children to school in the dark," noted Stout. Moreover, "some people just didn't want to follow the lead of the United States." 

Besides, Canada did not necessarily stand to save energy because adopting daylight time would boost use of heating oil and electricity "on dark, cold mornings."

Provinces got to decide

With all those considerations, Ontario had decided against the move, as did the Atlantic provinces.

In the Prairie provinces, said Stout, there was no intention to switch — particularly in Saskatchewan, which stayed on standard time year-round.

British Columbia initially agreed to adopt daylight time in step with the U.S., then pushed their adoption date to February, then abandoned the plan altogether, according to the Globe and Mail. 

Taking the bus was a good way to save energy without moving the clocks forward, pointed out reporter Larry Stout. (CBC Archives)

But the provincial decisions not to follow daylight time, while the United States did, would have an impact on industries that needed to coordinate schedules.

"Stock exchanges ... in Montreal and Toronto say they will open an hour early to adjust to the American market," said Stout.

Air Canada hoped B.C. would stick to standard time because "severe problems" would be the result for transcontinental services.

What it meant for the CBC

And Canadian TV networks were affected by the change to U.S. clocks. 

"CTV says it will have to reschedule 60 programs," noted Stout. "The CBC, with its higher Canadian content, will have fewer problems."

Of course, if Canadians were really interested in saving energy, there was one thing they could do.

"Leave the car at home and hop a bus," he said.