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Jeremy Roberts: If you’re still groggy from losing an hour of sleep, hope may be on the horizon

Commentary

Alas, it has happened again.

Sigh.

The dreaded time change is upon us once again—the bane of parents, teenagers, and coffee addicts alike. 

At 2 am Sunday morning, the government snatched away one precious hour of sleep. Worse, when you woke up, you had to spend at least half an hour painstakingly updating every analog clock in your home, along with the microwave, oven, coffee machine, old digital clocks, and the car. 

It’s not the best way to start a relaxing Sunday.

In return for this inconvenience, we are rewarded with more daylight in the afternoon—the only saving grace of the bi-annual time change legislated in almost all provinces across Canada. “Spring Forward” brings with it Daylight Savings Time (DST).

Four-and-a-half months ago I wrote here about my crusade to end the time change in Ontario. To those who might have missed it, during my time as a member of provincial parliament I tabled a private member’s bill that would move Ontario into permanent DST. If it were enacted today, it would mean that after the Spring Forward, we would stop the time change for good, leaving us with more daylight hours in the evening on a permanent basis.

The bill sailed through the legislature in a record 55 days, receiving all-party support. The catch: in order for the Bill to “come into force” we would need Quebec and New York State to follow suit.

While Quebec has expressed interest in the idea, New York State has always been the sticking point. Wrestling the Empire State into line is no easy feat.

However, I am ever the optimist and there remain some signs of good news.

In order for New York State to move to permanent DST, they require authorization from the federal government. The American Uniform Time Act currently mandates that states either follow the biannual time change OR move into permanent standard time.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio is trying to change that. In a bipartisan effort, he has introduced once again his Sunshine Protection Act, a Bill that would allow states to adopt permanent DST. The last iteration of the Bill passed through the Senate relatively unopposed before stalling in the House of Representatives. The hope of many is that this time, the House will take up the Bill for a vote.

A critical mass of support for this measure is building across the American States. So far, 19 states have passed legislation indicating that they would move to permanent DST if authorized, including Alabama, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Meanwhile, California voters endorsed the move in a referendum. 

If the Sunshine Protection Act becomes law this year, it will be incumbent on Canadian provinces, like Ontario, to lobby their cross-border partners to move quickly. While bringing New York State on board is the key to unlocking Ontario’s legislation, having Michigan aligned as well would be beneficial. 

In the meantime, more Canadian provinces should move forward with passing provisional legislation, like my Bill in Ontario. In this way, we could send a strong, unified message to our trading partners south of the border that we are ready to make this change with them. There is nothing stopping Quebec, for example, from doing this. A lone intrepid member of the National Assembly could bring forward their own private member’s bill to do this.

The evidence is clear as to the harm that is caused by this bi-annual ritual of disrupting our circadian rhythms. And I have no doubt that legislators who take up this cause will be rewarded by happy parents everywhere, who will be dealing with groggy children for the next few weeks. 

So if you find yourself grumbling over this change in the coming days, look up your provincial representative and send them a note. Urge them to take up this cause and continue moving this forward.

All eyes are on the U.S. Congress. Let’s hope that this Spring Forward is the last one. 

Steve Lafleur: Toronto is no longer a place where people can afford to take a chance

Commentary

Canadians have a love-hate relationship with Toronto. Torontonians can be loud and arrogant. And let’s be honest: the place could use a bit of a makeover. Overflowing trash cans and dysfunctional public transit shouldn’t be our brand. Despite it all, Toronto remains the heart of Canada’s economy.

Unfortunately for Canadians, our largest and most dynamic city is no longer a place where most people can afford to take a chance. After all, you need to make rent if you’re going to live in the city, let alone build a business. That is getting increasingly difficult. 

A recent post by public transit expert Reece Martin (who runs the excellent YouTube Channel RM Transit) highlighted the challenges of being an entrepreneur in an expensive city like Toronto. 

“In a more affordable city where the stress of making rent and keeping the lights on wasn’t a huge issue then YouTube might be less stressful.”

Martin announced that he’s packing up and leaving Toronto. As a fellow freelancer in Toronto, I can relate.

I’m writing this piece from my cozy old hometown of Winnipeg. If I moved back here, I could save a thousand dollars a month on rent. In other words, twelve thousand dollars a year. That’s around $15,000 in pre-tax income I need to earn in Ontario to make up the difference. That’s a lot of extra columns!

The problem is compounded if you’re running a brick-and-mortar business. Constraints on both upwards and outwards development mean that commercial spaces are competing with residential uses, pushing up the price of both. 

Then there’s the small matter of hiring employees. As Martin noted in his post, it can be challenging (and expensive) to hire people in Toronto given that prospective employees need to pay so much more for rent than they would in more balanced housing markets. The cost of housing scarcity cascades through the economy. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. Housing scarcity is a choice. The provincial and municipal governments have taken some strides to increase the rate of housing construction. But it’s not nearly enough. According to the province’s Housing Affordability Task Force, we need to double housing starts in Ontario. That doesn’t just mean getting housing policy right. We also need the right labour and training to ensure we have enough people to do the work. 

Restoring balance to our housing market will require a Herculean effort. Yet we get bogged down in debates about knocking down derelict factories and replacing parking lots. The longer we stall, the harder it will be to catch up. At this point, it seems unlikely that we will.

This doesn’t mean that Toronto is going to lose its place as the economic capital of the country. It won’t. There is no other region in Canada that is anywhere near as globally interconnected as the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Toronto will remain the center of economic gravity in Canada, for better or worse.

What it does mean is that Toronto—and Canada—will become less dynamic and lose talent to other labour markets. Toronto probably isn’t going to beat California or New York on quality of life. If we don’t have a meaningful cost of living advantage, we’re not going to play in the big leagues. Whether we’re talking about building YouTube channels or software companies.