In 2020, I passed a Private Member’s Bill that authorized Ontario to move to permanent Daylight Savings Time, which would give us more daylight in the evening during winter. The bill received unanimous support from all parties and is on the books, waiting to be brought into force.
So what’s the wait? Can’t we just pull the trigger and end this outdated relic once and for all?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
As much as I would have loved my bill to start immediately, the reality of legislating is that you must consider multiple perspectives on an issue.
That’s why my bill had a caveat: Quebec and New York State need to join us.
There were sound reasons for this. As it relates to New York, Ontario benefits from being in the same time zone as the markets in New York City. Maintaining this commercial advantage is important. As it relates to Quebec, a unilateral change in Ontario would leave half of the federal government departments marooned on separate time on the Gatineau side of the Ottawa river for half the year.
As such, while Ontario has now passed the law and kick-started the discussion, we are still waiting on Quebec and New York to join in.
So where are we today?
Well, sadly not very much further than we were at Spring Forward 2022.
Quebec has not made any moves. When my bill was first passed, Premier Legault indicated that he was “open to the idea”. More recently, a spokesperson to the Quebec Justice Minister told MTL Blog that “the Quebec Government is always open to analyzing this issue.”
Openness is great, but we need someone to pick up the ball. Given that the issue was passed as a PMB in Ontario, this would be a great issue for a backbencher to adopt in Quebec. It has the unique benefit of being both populist and evidence-based—a great combo for a legislator.
New York State is much more complicated.
While they can introduce legislation to move to permanent DST (as has been done by other states), they would need to receive authorization through federal legislation. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 grants their federal government jurisdiction over this issue.
Thankfully, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio is on the case. The Senate has passed Rubio’s Sunshine Protection Act, which would allow states to move to permanent DST. An identical bill has been brought forward in the House of Representatives and, since February 2021, it is waiting to be called to committee for study.
But let’s not lose hope!
From the day I introduced my bill to when it received royal assent, it took 55 days. That included a committee hearing and two legislative debates.
It happened so quickly because it is popular and backed up by evidence.
A Narrative research poll in 2020 found that 85 percent of Ontarians support the idea. This would back up the anecdotal evidence I collected through email correspondence and letters during my time in office.
And the evidence for ending the time change is substantial.
The time change has been linked to, amongst other findings, an 8-percent spike in depression rates, a 24-percent increase in heart attacks amongst at-risk populations, an 8-percent increase in strokes, and a 10-percent increase in fatal car crashes. Moreover, studies have found that permanent DST could cause a boost to retail activity through additional hours of evening sunshine.
So, what’s next?
Well, we as citizens need to put the pressure on legislators. Despite being a populist issue, the cause of permanent DST is only salient twice a year. Now is the time to write to your MNA if you live in Quebec, or tell your family in the U.S. to write to their congressmen.
It is my fervent hope that Ontario can bring my bill into force in the near future. Time’s up on Fall Back.