Nfld. & Labrador

New Canada 150 sculpture highlights N.L.'s time zone quirk

"When you're always half an hour ahead, you never feel the need to catch up."

Newfoundland and some parts of Labrador were the first to experience Canada's 150th anniversary

This sculpture in Harbourside Park in downtown St. John's celebrates time zones and Canada's 150th anniversary. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

"When you're always half an hour ahead, you never feel the need to catch up."

That was a slogan in a Newfoundland and Labrador tourism video, with images of wild Atlantic Ocean waves crashing into rugged cliffs, that I — a big city Toronto girl — saw when I started researching St. John's, upon learning I would be working there. 

When I got here, though, I found that the time difference didn't make me feel all that different — it's just another quirk that makes Newfoundland and Labrador unique in Canada. 

This week, to commemorate Canada's 150th birthday, a new sculpture went up in Harbourside Park in downtown St. John's.

The design, by Montreal artist José Luis Torres, depicts a compass with an arrow in the centre — his interpretation of the precision behind clockwork. 

A sculpture by Jose Luis Torres is displayed Harbourside Park in honour of Sir Sandford Fleming, a Scottish-Canadian engineer who proposed the concept of worldwide standard time in 1879. (Nakshi Pandit/CBC)

It honours Scottish-Canadian engineer Sandford Fleming, who proposed worldwide standard time zones in 1879 on the international stage. 

Unique situation

But the sculpture is also a nod to this province's unique situation when it comes to time zones. 

This province has two separate time zones; while Newfoundland and some parts of Labrador are on Newfoundland Time, the rest of Labrador is on Atlantic Time. 

St-Pierre and Miquelon, French islands south of Newfoundland, is actually half an hour ahead, despite being west of the Avalon Peninsula. 

When the rest of Canada is at the top of the hour, the Newfoundland time zone is at the bottom.

The reason is the eastern location of the island, and the fact that it was a separate dominion when time zones were established. Because it was separate from Canada, Newfoundland had the right to adopt its own time zone. 

In 1963, the Newfoundland government attempted to bring the province into conformity with the Atlantic provinces, but withdrew in the face of stiff public opposition. 

First to celebrate

There are definite advantages to the quirk, like hitting milestones before the rest of the country — kicking off a new year, movie releases, among other benefits.

People in this province also get to vote in federal elections before anyone else. 

TV and radio broadcasts on air here get the privilege of claiming that their news programming is the world premiere of the day's news — at least before the rest of the North American broadcasts start. 

For me though, the biggest advantage to living in this beautiful province is bragging rights. I donned my party hat and red-and-white attire and can say I was among the first to sing Happy Birthday to Canada, or at least a half-hour before people in other provinces chimed in.

About the Author

Nakshi is a reporter with CBC News, currently in Charlottetown. She has previously worked in WInnipeg, St. John's and Toronto.

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