The Northern Rockies Regional Municipality is asking voters this Election Day to weigh in on whether to keep Daylight Savings Time in the region, which would keep time in line with the province’s more populated areas, or switch to the same Mountain Standard Time as the Peace Region.
The poll is non-binding, and will only be used to gauge interest in the proposition.
As it stands now, the Northern Rockies observes daylight savings time, moving clocks back an hour in the fall and forward an hour in the spring, as happens in most of the rest of the province.
But that puts them out of sync with their closest neighbors to the south, communities like Fort St. John and Dawson Creek, who don’t touch their clocks.
This means the Peace Region is in line with Vancouver time during the summer, but Edmonton time during the winter.
In fact, that is one reason why the NRRM is considering abolishing daylight savings time – not only to be more like their closest provincial counterparts, but so that for the winter months they can be on Alberta time.
Tanner Whidden is a Fort Nelson-based branch manager for Formula Powell, a logistics company headquartered in Grande Prairie. He explained that with the time difference, they aren’t just losing one hour of their workday.
When he arrives at work at 8 a.m., he said, head office staff has already been working in Grande Prairie for an hour. They leave for lunch at 11 a.m. his time, and he gets back from lunch at 1 p.m. Then at the end of the day, he’s off at five, but his counterparts in Alberta have been gone for an hour.
That’s three hours out of his eight-hour workday that his head office isn’t available, Whidden said. And that’s on top of the confusion that surrounds scheduling trucks to run back and forth between the provinces.
“I don’t see it as saving daylight, I see it as a disadvantage when it comes to industry,” he said.
This change would only align the northern municipality with Alberta for a few months of the year – until March 8 in 2015 – while Alberta has their clocks dialed back.
This isn’t the first time that such a proposal has come to council. According to Randy McLean, the NRRM’s chief administrative officer, there was an informal poll a few years ago that came out strongly in favour of keeping the time the same year-round. But there was no way of knowing how accurate that poll was, or if people voted more than once.
In this case, the question will be attached to the ballot, ensuring that what the citizenry wants will be clear and above board. If there’s a strong indication that people want to eliminate daylight savings time, Mayor Bill Streeper said, council would then look into how to make that change.
“We’ve also got to consider in some aspects, too, that we have changed more dominantly into an oil industry town. Forestry was still somewhat in existence back when we did it the other way. Now people are working in the patch,” he said. “There are a lot of businesses here that have two clocks on the wall.”
Fort Nelson councillor and mayoral challenger Kim Eglinski agreed that it is something that affects many of the oilfield workers.
“It’s important because a lot of our guys work out in the oil patch, and that is all on Alberta time, so for them it [would be] very, very convenient,” she said. “There’s no skin off my back if it goes either way – whatever they want, we’ll pursue it.”
As for Whidden, he doesn’t think that daylight savings actually stays true to its namesake, citing an Aboriginal adage: “‘The White Man is the only guy who will cut a foot off the bottom of a blanket and add it to the top of the blanket and think he’s got a longer blanket,’” said Whidden.
“Unfortunately, it’s true. Now I wake up in the morning and, yeah, it’s a little bit lighter. But it’s dark when I get off work, so what’s the difference?”