Thunder Bay

'Jet lag all year round': Why experts think permanent daylight time in Ontario would be a mistake

An Ottawa area MPP wants to switch the province to permanent daylight time, but time processing experts aren't springing ahead to support the idea.

Experts recommend the province switch to standard time permanently instead

A giant sculpture constructed with the faces of clocks is seen outside a Paris train station, March 27, 2009 on the weekend when France moves its clocks forward one hour early, marking daylight savings time. Clocks are set to fall back on November 1 this year, but some think that practice is out of date. (Charles Platiau/France Society/Reuters)

An Ottawa-area MPP wants to switch the province to permanent daylight time, but time processing experts aren't springing ahead to support the idea.

Jeremy Roberts, MPP for the Ottawa West-Nepean riding brought forward a private member's bill citing the practice of changing clocks twice a year is doing "more harm than good" for the province.

"Permanent daylight saving time will, on average, provide us with more sunlight in the evenings, which is generally the preferred leisure time of working Ontarians … More daylight in the evening will likely generate more economic activity, as individuals are more likely to go out shopping after work if it is still light out," said Roberts in a written letter posted to his website.

Experts in chronobiology, a field of biology that examines timing processes, have spoken out about the bill and instead recommend the province make the switch to permanent standard time, calling it the "wiser and healthier choice."

 

"As a biologist, I think about this in terms of the biological clock," explained Patricia Lakin-Thomas, York University professor and Canadian Society for Chronobiology board member.

"We have this clock in our brain that is set by light and it controls our daily activities, our daily physiology, our sleep-wake cycle. And then there are clocks all over the body … they get set by the brain clock," she said.

Lakin-Thomas compared switching to permanent daylight time as being in a perpetual state of jet lag, as the body's biological clocks, or circadian rhythms, would constantly be out of sync.

"Under standard time, the time is going to be closer to our natural tendency to rise with the sun and to be in sync with the sun. Standard time is closer to that body time," she said.

Patricia Lakin-Thomas surrounded by her team at the Clocklab. The associate professor in the Department of Biology at York University’s Faculty of Science says people can experience effects much like jet lag due to change to and from DST.

Both Roberts and Lakin-Thomas indicated the biannual time change can be linked to a number of health issues, such as an increase in heart attacks, strokes, and even workplace injuries and car accidents. However, Lakin-Thomas said there will still be similar and long-term risks if the province were to switch to permanent daylight time.

"On daylight saving time we're going to be an hour jet lag all year round and we can actually predict that we're going to have some negative health impacts from that," she said.

While Roberts doesn't indicate concern for negative health impacts by switching permanently to daylight time in his letter, he does warn that the switch itself should be thought out carefully when it comes to logistics.

MPP proposes New York and Quebec follow suit

"My bill proposes that this change would only come into effect at the discretion of the Attorney General (AG). This would allow the AG to implement this change only when the appropriate changes are also set to take effect in Quebec and New York," reads the letter by Roberts.

Roberts said making the change immediately would be unreasonable and should only happen if jurisdictions such as New York and Quebec follow suit.

Lakin-Thomas said while she's unable to predict how the processing of the bill might play out, she did point to similar bills that were never implemented in Ontario, as well as examples of cities and countries trying out permanent daylight time.

"Several states in the US tried it in the 70s. The UK tried it for about three years. Russia had it for a while. They all dropped it after a few years … unfortunately, they went back to switching twice a year," she said.

Bill 214, the Time Amendment Act, as tabled by Roberts has been carried through a second reading and has been referred to Standing Committee as of October 14, 2020.

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