A time change, on top of everything else? Montrealers lobby to stick with daylight saving time

Dipping temperatures and an extended lockdown are enough to contend with on their own, a group of Montrealers is saying.

The prospect of losing an hour of sunlight, starting Sunday, is altogether too much, they say.

“I think that we shouldn’t have the time change in November and stay on daylight saving time,” said Alison Usher-Jones, who started the group Stop Time Change QC.

“I think the biggest impact is on people’s mental health."

Her group has submitted a petition to the National Assembly in the hopes that with COVID-19, this might finally be the year the government acts to preserve what little daylight there is during the winter months, cancelling the time change.

The time change will take away some of Quebecers' only moments to see each other, since they need sun for that, the group argues.

"That hour that we're losing in the evening," said Usher-Jones, "that would have been the hour for people to meet outside. You can get all bundled up, but there's still some sunlight."

Some of the group's argument has long been backed up by science.

Doctors have warned for years of the physical toll seasonal time changes can have on the body. There is a spike in heart attacks and serious car accidents each year in the weeks that follow the time change.

This year, with the pandemic, doctors have already noticed a spike in patients with mental health issues and they fear the additional impacts of losing an hour of daylight.

"It's such a simple thing that can be changed which would greatly improve the lives of everyone,” said Dr. Sarah Nitoslawski, a physician who supports keeping daylight saving time year-round.

Liberal MNA David Birnbaum, who is the opposition’s critic on the mental health file, has sponsored the petition at the National Assembly.

“Here is one additional source of stress and anxiety, that is, based on expert studies -- the notion that we face an addition hour of darkness each day,” he said in an interview with CTV News. 

“So if there is a measure, a serious one that can be taken to alleviate that stress, it's certainly worthy of consideration."

Asked Wednesday if it was something his government was considering, Legault said it was not a priority.

“It’s something we will look at eventually, but not right now,” the Premier said.

For Quebec to end seasonal time changes, it is likely Ontario and New York would also have to be on board because of economic ties between the three regions.

“I say 'Why don’t we just be a leader in this situation and actually do something?'” said Usher-Jones.

But there are also strong signs of change elsewhere, especially in Ontario.

The Ontario legislature, too, is currently reviewing a private member's bill to keep daylight saving time year-round. It has wide support and has passed a second reading.

And in New York, a state lawmaker introduced a bill to do the same early in 2020, before the pandemic. That effort was also put on hold due to COVID-19, according to New York media, but plans are underway to reintroduce the same bill next year.

A similar bill passed the BC legislature last year, but implementation was delayed due to the pandemic.

The Yukon Territory has moved ahead with the idea, deciding it will not fall back on Sunday.

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