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The History of Daylight Saving Time

Vintage alarm clock on pile of dry autumn leaves for daylight saving time change in fall

The end of Daylight Saving Time, often mistakenly referred to as Daylight Savings Time, marks an additional hour of sleep for many Canadians.

The practice of adjusting our clocks occurs twice a year when clocks jump ahead one hour on the second Sunday in March and back one hour on the first Sunday in November.

While turning the clocks forward and back is a concept that dates back centuries, what is the history of Daylight Saving Time and how did this practice begin?

In 1895, George Hudson, an entomologist from New Zealand, first proposed the idea of a two-hour time shift so he could have more after-work hours of sunshine in the summer. While no change came into effect after Hudson’s suggestion, the idea resurfaced again a few decades later in Germany.

In 1915, the German government began brainstorming ways to save energy for battle during the First World War. During this time, they needed their citizens to reduce the use of artificial light and conserve scarce resources like fossil fuels.

Their solution was to have more daylight during working hours by pushing the clocks forward one hour in the springtime. It was believed that adjusting the time would encourage people to use less energy to light up their homes and reserve important resources for the war.

The first iteration of Daylight Saving Time was officially implemented two years into the First World War in Germany. After Germany established this practice, almost every other country that fought in the war followed suit, including Canada, the United States and much of Europe.

In 1918, the Canadian government formally introduced Daylight Saving Time as a way to increase production during wartime. With the end of the First World War, the federal government ceased Daylight Saving Time, but resumed the practice during the Second World War. During the Second World War, Daylight Saving Time was used all year round in Canada.

While the concept of Daylight Saving Time originated with the principle of saving energy, today, critics say that there are still other ways to consume energy, including watching TV, running fans, using heaters and driving. According to critics, these energy-consuming activities will occur regardless of whether an hour of daylight is saved or not.

Today, not all jurisdictions in Canada and the United States observe Daylight Saving Time. Saskatchewan, the Yukon, Arizona and parts of Northern BC are places where this practice is not recognized.

In BC, the Creston Valley-Kootenay Lake area, specifically Yahk, Creston and Crawford, observe Mountain Standard Time (MST) all year round.

To this day, the time change is often subject to debate for British Columbians across the province, and BC’s NDP government has even pledged to eliminate it. Debate has also spread to the United States as many states on the west coast are considering permanent year-round Daylight Saving Time.

Only time will tell whether Daylight Saving Time is here to stay.

Published on Nov. 5, 2021.