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Daylight saving time begins again in the US and Canada on 11 March. Here’s an excerpt from my book on the history of daylight saving time around the world, The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy. Some parts of Canada were quite early in their adoption of daylight saving …

A number of cities in Canada had daylight saving several years before any entire country or state adopted it. The first was the city of Port Arthur (now part of Thunder Bay) in northern Ontario. John Hewitson, a teacher and then a businessman in this small shipping centre on Lake Superior, was keen for local children and sportspeople to enjoy an extra hour of daylight in summer evenings. With the support of the local trade board, he convinced Port Arthur Council to pass a bylaw to switch the city from Central time to Eastern time for a two month trial in 1908. The experiment was viewed favourably and Port Arthur voted for a permanent change from 30 April 1909. The neighbouring city of Fort William adjusted its clocks to Eastern time in 1910. In the same year, the boundary between the Central and Eastern time zones was shifted over 200 miles (320 kilometres) west and this whole region fell within the Eastern zone.

Moose Jaw, a city in southern Saskatchewan, was probably the first place in Canada to actually observe daylight saving time as distinct from a temporary or more permanent switch in time zones. The local power plant was out of action due to a fire and the city used the new time from 1 June 1912 until the end of summer on 22 September. Canadian Pacific Railway wasn’t in favour of daylight saving and the trains ran to standard time. The scheme wasn’t used in subsequent years. A referendum on daylight saving was held in the city on 12 May 1915 but the results aren’t known.

Neighbouring city Regina, the province’s capital, adopted daylight saving in 1914. Landowners voted decisively in favour of the measure in April of that year although the Trades and Labour Council felt that the bylaw wasn’t legal as only property owners were allowed to vote on it. The council also argued that daylight time would result in people having to work longer hours. In December, the annual report of the city light superintendent showed that the scheme saved ratepayers between $20,000 and $30,000 in artificial lighting. Baseball and football matches could be played in the evening. Or residents were able to spend the time at local attraction Lake Wascana in daylight. The scheme was deemed a success and it started a month earlier the following year although newspaper reports stated that clocks “will be turned back one hour”. Regina had daylight saving in subsequent years.

Saskatoon, the province’s largest city, had daylight saving from 1 June to 6 July in 1914. At a plebiscite on 30 June, less than 40 per cent of voters favoured the measure and it was dropped. Davidson, a town to the north of Moose Jaw, also had daylight saving in 1914, as did the town of Melfort, north-east of Saskatoon. The city of Prince Albert had the scheme in 1916 but not in 1917 after 67 per cent of people voted against it in a ballot. Daylight saving only lasted a year or two in most of the places in Saskatchewan that used it.

Daylight saving didn’t even last a season in many localities that tried it. In the town of Orillia, Ontario, mayor Bill Frost, who liked anything progressive, new or scientific, vigorously promoted the measure for “The Town Ahead”. Residents asked one another: “Do you go on God’s time or Bill Frost’s time?” Orillia’s “leap ahead” day was Saturday 22 June 1912, but “Daylight Bill” forgot to reset his watch and in the morning was an hour late for church. Daylight saving was scheduled to go through to 31 August, but the scheme lasted just two weeks due to opposition from various groups. The town, to the north of Toronto, was probably the second in Canada to have daylight time, after Moose Jaw.

Kenora, Ontario set a starting date for daylight saving of 1 May 1914 after the majority of the town’s citizens were found to favour the proposal. But it soon became apparent that folk in the neighbouring town of Keewatin, a few miles along the shoreline of the Lake of the Woods, weren’t going to embrace the idea. Speculation ran through both places as to who was going to accept it and who would ignore it. Most businesses, schools and shops in Kenora made the change, while most of those in Keewatin kept the old time. The ferry stuck with standard time as most patrons were from Keewatin although on Saturday nights the ferry master observed daylight time as people came to Kenora for shopping and the theatre and wanted to be there at the right time. Many children of Keewatin timber workers went to school in Kenora and families had to use both time systems. Three weeks into the time change, on 22 May, a meeting of the local Retail Merchants’ Association decided the situation was untenable and shops set their clocks back. Everyone in both towns was on standard time again by end of month.

A number of Canadian cities and towns considered daylight saving time in 1916, mainly to conserve energy and provide more opportunities for recreation late in the day. Some areas reversed decisions on daylight saving before it started and many others returned to standard time early although a few continued with the scheme to the scheduled end.

Halifax and Winnipeg, capitals of Nova Scotia and Manitoba, introduced and discarded daylight saving in 1916. Fierce debate engulfed both cities throughout the summer. In Halifax, daylight time commenced on 1 May and was scheduled to finish on 30 September. The council meeting after the decision to adopt the scheme was filled to overflowing, with plenty of applause, jeering, shouting and laughter echoing around the hall. Local newspapers were swamped with letters from readers. Petitions both for and against the change were signed by thousands. Daylight time ended four weeks early on 3 September due to sustained opposition from a large number of citizens. In the following year, opponents convinced the council not to renew the plan as it had isolated the city from the rest of the province.

end of excerpt

The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy can be obtained from Amazon, Kobo and Apple.

DST book cover

 

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