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Here’s what would it take for Ontario to get more daylight in these winter evenings

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One of the strange features of mid-December is the approach of both the most festive part of the year and the shortest, darkest day on the calendar.

It’s a stark contrast between the holiday cheer and the depressing sight of a sunless sky before the commute home has even begun.

Ontario MPP Jeremy Roberts hopes to change that with his recently passed private member’s bill that would keep the province on daylight time permanently. That means the extra hour of sunshine in the evenings that we get in the summer would remain throughout the year, with no “fall back” and “spring forward” each year.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. That extra hour of sunshine would be gained at a cost of pushing the morning sunrise back and some cities would feel it harder than others.

Albertans recently rejected a shift to permanent daylight time, which would have resulted in some eerily late sunrises in the province.

The sunrise in Grande Prairie this morning, for example, was officially clocked at 9:15 a.m., meaning a permanent shift to daylight time would push it to 10:15 a.m. Tantalizingly, though, the Grande Prairie sunset would happen closer to 5:30 p.m. than 4:30 p.m., offering a less depressing commute in the deepest part of winter.

The issue is a policy Rorschach test, pitting morning people against night people, parents against non-parents, and even golfers against drive-in movie enthusiasts. In Alberta, the recent referendum divided the province, with 50.2 percent of voters saying no to year-round daylight time and 49.8 saying yes.

When he started doing research on the topic of daylight saving, Roberts found that it was initially a measure to save energy during the First World War. Germany made the switch, followed by England and eventually Canada in 1918. Nowadays, it’s hard to find a justification for the twice-yearly ritual.

“In fact, there’s a whole range of negative health impacts to changing the time twice a year,” said Roberts, in an interview with The Hub. “It’s been linked to an increase in heart attacks and strokes, more fatal car crashes, less productivity at work, and a whole slew of different negative side effects.”

Roberts said the bill sailed through the Ontario legislature in 55 days with virtually no opposition and support from small businesses that are keen on the idea of extra daylight in the evenings.

The major hurdle for the change is that, like launching missiles in a submarine, everyone has to turn their key. The Ontario bill will only be triggered if New York state and Quebec pass similar legislation.

Quebec Premier François Legault has never seemed overly enthusiastic about the idea but has recently said he’s open to it. Roberts said Ontario needs Quebec on board so the time change doesn’t wreak havoc with the federal government, which is split across the Quebec and Ontario side of the Ottawa River.

“You’d have a really weird situation where a lot of people would be missing meetings,” said Roberts.

And although there is legislation under consideration at the New York State Senate’s Judiciary Committee, it is contingent on neighbouring states agreeing with the measure and the U.S. federal government passing legislation allowing states to enact the changes.

The senator who sponsored the New York legislation has been reaching out to neighbouring states, similar to Roberts’ efforts. So far 19 states have passed resolutions or motions to abide by year-round daylight time, which require legislation from Congress to be enacted.

“Now we just need to figure out how we can do it responsibly and get those last two partners on board,” said Roberts.

‘Civilization is going to crumble,’ if we don’t have more kids, says Elon Musk

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Elon Musk sounded the alarm about the West’s rapidly declining birth rates last week, worrying that there simply won’t be enough people to do the work needed in a productive society.

“If people don’t have more children, civilization is going to crumble, mark my words,” said Musk, at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO summit. Musk, the world’s richest man and founder of multiple technology companies, was named Time Magazine’s person of the year on Monday.

“One of the biggest risks to civilization is the low birth rate and the rapidly declining birth rate. And yet so many people, including smart people, think that there are too many people in the world and think that the population is growing out of control,” said Musk. “It’s completely the opposite. Please look at the numbers.”

The problem is acute in Canada. The average number of children born to Canadian women dropped to a new low of 1.4 last year, a steep decline from 1.47 children per woman just one year earlier, and well below the natural replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman.

Musk made the comments in a conversation about the recently announced “Tesla Bot,” which is an AI-powered humanoid robot that Tesla hopes will one-day do humanity’s more undesirable jobs.

The robot will be about five-feet-eight-inches tall and weigh 125 pounds, with a walking speed of about eight kilometres per hour and a lifting capacity of about 20 kilograms. Some critics described it as a pie-in-the-sky, dystopian idea, while others suspect it’s simply a joke.

Musk suggested the best fix for the fertility crisis would be for people to simply have more children, but the AI robots could represent another solution. And as the world suffers through a pandemic-inspired labour shortage, Musk sees many more shortages in our future.

“The fundamental constraint is labour. There are not enough people. I can’t emphasize this enough: there are not enough people,” said Musk.

In the wide-ranging half-hour conversation, Musk also decried the spiralling deficits in Washington and explained his vision for the future of autonomous vehicles. He also told the audience of CEOs that he believes the role of government is to be a referee and not a player in the business world, to avoid blocking society’s progress.

With a massive infrastructure recently passed in Washington, D.C., Musk said he would simply “delete” the bill and get back to basics on infrastructure. His preferred bill would focus on highways and airports, he said.

“Especially in cities that are congested, we’ve got to do something to deal with extreme traffic, which I think is some combination of double-deckering freeways and building tunnels. If we don’t do something we will be stuck in traffic forever,” said Musk.

Musk said he is anticipating “one of the biggest transformations ever in human civilization” when autonomous vehicles begin to dominate the roads in the near future. Drivers will become passengers and most of the pain of driving will be taken out of the daily commute, Musk said. That will lead to many more cars on the road and a possible spike in congestion unless governments build more capacity in the highways.

“We don’t have a traffic problem in suburbs, we have a traffic problem on freeways because they are just too small and did not anticipate the size of the urban environments that we currently experience,” said Musk.

He argued that this is the kind of thing government should be focused on rather than, for example, building charging stations for electric vehicles and offering subsidies to people who buy them.

His views on government expenditures are reminiscent of an insight that led to the creation of his SpaceX company. Because NASA funding was allocated by congress, many of the crucial decisions were made according to whether that money would be spent in certain districts, rather than if it would be a useful way to spend it. That has allowed SpaceX to launch its rockets at a significantly lower price tag than NASA.

“They probably will be getting fairly close to launching humans to Mars, which sounds crazy, because if you gave NASA its current budget plus 50 percent they would be nowhere near putting humans on Mars in the next 15 or 20 years,” said Eric Berger, the author of Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days that Launched SpaceX, on a recent episode of the Political Economy podcast.

James Pethokoukis, who hosts the podcast, recently told Time Magazine that Musk may not articulate his views in the traditional language of partisan politics but that he definitely has a coherent worldview.

“The reason it’s confusing is it’s not on the traditional left-right spectrum. It is a politics of progress,” said Pethokoukis.

“In general, government should just try and get out of the way and not impede progress,” said Musk, at the Wall Street Journal summit.

“There’s not really an effective garbage collection system for removing rules and regulation and so gradually this hardens the arteries of civilization,” said Musk. “So I think government should really be trying hard to get rid of rules and regulations that perhaps had some merit at some point but don’t have merit currently.”