The sunrise over downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 2. The Yukon government is debating whether the Yukon should still participate in seasonal time change. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Yukoners asked to mull over ending the seasonal time change

A public engagement survey over whether to stop changing our clocks closes in February

Depending on what Yukoners have to say, the Yukon government could permanently set clocks in the territory, perhaps in lockstep with British Columbia.

“Obviously we have such close ties to B.C.,” said Andrew Smith, analyst with the executive council office. “We have to make sure that we’re making a measured decision to get this done. B.C. wanting to move ahead on it, sort of be the first to do it, is leading everyone else to come to a decision on it.”

The province recently passed legislation to avoid switching clocks, landing on Daylight Saving Time permanently. Changes could come in March, according to a Yukon government fact sheet. B.C. is looking past its borders, south, at coastal states like Washington, Oregon and California, which have also debated fixing their clocks, Smith said.

Smith said what’s playing out in B.C. helped spur the public engagement period, which ends on Feb. 16. The survey provides three options: the status quo, Daylight Saving Time (summer time) year-round or Pacific Standard Time year-round.

There are pluses and minuses to both, depending on whom you talk to. Daylight Saving Time would mean more light in the afternoon, regardless of the time of year. It would also mean having two hours on Alaska in the wintertime. If Pacific Standard Time is selected, the Yukon would be one hour behind B.C., if the B.C. government follows through with its plan; the sun would rise and set one hour earlier here.

The idea has been batted around for years in the Yukon, Smith noted, coming in the form of a rash of motions. The Yukon Party’s Wade Istchenko has tabled several. He wasn’t available for comment.

Asked what possible problems there could be if the Yukon doesn’t synch with B.C., Smith said that’s what the survey is trying to establish in part.

Things like transportation, businesses and flight scheduling could be affected, he said.

We’d be in synch in the summer, out of synch in the winter, if no change is made.

Where the sun is positioned in the sky affects people’s circadian rhythm, said Smith, whereas clocks oscillate backwards and forwards to make way for more daylight at dawn or dusk. Stopping this practice, though, could mean more light in afternoon or morning.

“You hear anecdotally, things coming out, that there are increased accidents, heart attacks immediately following that change, so eliminating the change will get rid of some of those effects,” he said.

A Yukon government fact sheet says if the sun at midday is misaligned with the clock, it affects sleep patterns, mental and physical health.

“Standard time more closely matches solar time (the sun clock). Some research has shown that our body clocks still follow more or less the time of the sun clock,” it says.

Smith said the European Union is appealing to people in order to arrive at a uniform time. Russia, he said, has had a permanent time for years.

Looking at other jurisdictions is fine, but it needs to be taken with a grain of salt, as sunlight in the Yukon, of course, is different — we get more of it than southern regions, less of it, too, depending on the season.

The survey can be found here: https://survey.gov.yk.ca/SeasonalTimeChangeSurvey.aspx

Contact Julien Gignac at

julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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