13 SEP 2017: Here’s a perfect example of how politicians waste money and pass the buck. As Albertans are apparently ardently debating (really?) whether to keep changing their clocks, the government estimates that a referendum on a bill about ending the twice-yearly time change would cost millions.  A bill by the way, that so far appears to be supported by about one quarter of one percent of Albertans.

NDP legislature member Graham Sucha, chair of the Standing Committee on Alberta's Economic Future, said a referendum paired with a provincial election would cost between $2 million and $6 million. Holding a time vote on its own would cost nearly $22 million.

Edmonton senior Orest Windjack told a public consultation hearing Tuesday that he's in favour of continuing to turn clocks back one hour in the fall and move them ahead one hour in the spring. But he suggested a vote may be the best way to go.

“Put it on a ballot when we have an election,” he told the five-member hearing panel.

Others who turned out for the meeting were divided on the issue. One woman said the government shouldn't “fight nature” by making the time change in the spring and fall.  Did anyone point out that by similar logic we fight nature every day by simply turning on a light bulb and turning night to day?

Earlier this year, NDP backbencher Thomas Dang spearheaded the private member's bill that would put Alberta on central standard time year round, like Saskatchewan. It would rather cleverly be called ‘Alberta Standard Time.’

Alberta would be in sync with its neighbour to the east all year long and stay one hour ahead of British Columbia in the summer. But it would end up two hours ahead of B.C. in the winter.

Daylight time has been a long-running controversy in Alberta since it was brought in by plebiscite in 1971. Critics say it's outdated and annoying, interrupts sleep and causes confusion. Huh?

The committee has also met with businesses, including WestJet, that believe ditching the time change would lead to economic losses, said NDP committee member Richard Gotfried. He suggested spending a few million dollars on a referendum might be worth it.

“It will be a one-time cost to make that decision - to give Albertans their voice - versus what could be an ongoing cost of millions of dollars in lost economic opportunity for Alberta.”

Gotfried noted that firefighters use the semi-annual time change to remind people to change batteries in their smoke alarms. And he quipped that Edmonton Oilers fans wouldn't be happy staying up later to watch the hockey team play in Vancouver. (Both very valid reasons for the 'no change' side).

Holly Toker, a working mother in Edmonton, told the committee ending the time change would complicate her life. Her driver's licence restricts her from being on the road in the dark and she needs an extra hour of light in the morning so she can take her kids to school and get to work on time.

“It might sound selfish, but I know I can't be the only one,” she said.

Neil Hollands of Spruce Grove said Alberta should take a lead by repealing the time change, and other jurisdictions might be more inclined to follow.

In the United States, 23 states are considering similar legislation, said NDP committee member Maria Fitzpatrick.

“If the rest of the world is moving on, I don't want to be behind the eight ball,” she said.  Despite what the US and Ms Fitzpatrick might think 23 American states do not begin to constitute 'the rest of the world.'

People stream into her office twice each year when they have to switch their clocks and ask her to put a stop to it, Fitzpatrick said. Really… they stream in? Twice a year? Does she serve coffee and cookies? 

In further gauging public opinion, she said, 38 of 39 people in her church choir want to stop making the time change. Well, hell, that’s a good enough reason.

The government has received about 13,000 written submissions, with 75 percent of people wanting to scrap the time change. 

Let's take a quick look at the numbers:

75% of 13,000 people is 9,750 Albertans wanting to scrap the time change.

The last census showed an Alberta population of  aproximately 4,067,175 and 9,750 of those makes up a grand total of less than 0.24%.

Public hearings are to continue Thursday in Calgary and wrap up Friday in Lethbridge. The committee is to submit its report to the government by Oct. 4.

If this topic is so important to (so few) Albertans (and you would think they have lots more to worry about) perhaps  the legislature should appoint a committee to review the economic repercussions and then  the legislature can vote based on actual facts and actual impact rather than old wives tales, anecdotes and drivel.

But seriously, Alberta - less than one percent of your population is concerned about something and you are considering wasting over $22 million on it - have you not got anything better to do with the money (or politicians, with your time?).  Here's a suggestion - there are serious problems in the world right now problems with our neighbours in the Caribbean and US.  Think about sending that money where it can do some good, for people with real problems.  Better still, the poor, homless, those in need of medical help ... $22 million will help.  Really it will.


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