Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Time Is Of The Essence

Congress has just passed a bill extending daylight saving time by two months, from the start of March to the end of November, and Canadian business leaders want us to follow suit:

"There is potential for huge confusion here, and we need to be vigilant, to look at the range of implications," said Len Crispino, president and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

The change, expected to take effect this fall, would mean clocks in Canada and the United States would be out of sync in March and November, causing scheduling headaches for travellers and TV viewers.

And should Canada decide to follow the American lead, farmers and rural schoolchildren, who already get up in the dark, would face even gloomier mornings.

But as things now stand, the implications for business are serious because the economies of the two countries are so integrated, said Crispino.

Businesses such as airlines, transportation and even Ontario's auto sector could be affected, since many automotive manufacturers use "just in time" delivery systems to get car parts to plants, Crispino said. And the Toronto Stock Exchange, for instance, would open and close one hour after New York's markets.


Although Ontario's Attorney General Michael Bryant is said to be looking into a possible response by the province, the Prime Minister's Office was still trying to figure out yesterday which department or minister would be most concerned about the time discrepancy.

In fact, though many Canadians may think we're overgoverned, the potentially significant matter of who goes along with daylight time — moving the clock ahead an hour in the spring and back an hour in the fall — is largely left up to individual provinces, even to local municipalities, mostly on a voluntary basis. Saskatchewan, for instance, has always been a daylight time holdout, as have several communities in British Columbia and northern Quebec.

Before the railway age forced the standardization of time, local time was literally local time, based on the movement of the sun alone; when it was noon in one town, it could be 12:10 a couple hundred miles away. The confusion wrought by competing local times led Sir Sandford Fleming to propose the division of the world into 24 time zones, a division that, with some changes, we've been using since 1885.

Time is one matter where everybody should be in sync because of its effects on everything from flight schedules to assembly lines. Since weights and measures already fall under federal jurisdiction, should not the most crucial measure of our economic system--time--be left there as well?

Extending daylight saving time by two months might be a daft idea in practice--Newfoundland's own experiment with double daylight saving time (90 minutes ahead of Atlantic time instead of 30) inconvenienced business so much that it was scrapped after one year. But given our integration with the U.S. economy, we won't have a practical choice but to follow along.

Unless the government wants to invoke Sir Sandford Fleming's vision of standard time as a Canadian value to be cherished and defended against all American incursions. (No two-tier time?)

Source: CBC

Fact: The National Research Council's official time signal is CBC's longest-running broadcast feature, having aired every day since November 5, 1939.

"And now for the National Research Council official time signal. At the start of the long dash which follows ten seconds silence, it will be 2:00 Atlantic time." I can't believe I can recite that from memory.

Go visit our timekeepers at the Institute for National Measurement Standards.

No comments: