What brought the adoption of the time change?

It seems that the very first “thinkers” of this practice of time change would have been Benjamin Franklin who would have touched on the idea in an essay in 1784, then, a British builder William Willet would have defended this proposal in 1907.

Before 1884, in Canada, local time was determined by making noon hour coincide with the moment when the sun reached its zenith. Since this time changed from east to west, the local time varied considerably from one region to another of the country.

This situation did not cause any problems until the day when the train made it possible to travel quickly over long distances. It then became impossible to run train timetables from a variety of different local times. Consideration was therefore given to establishing uniform time zones.

It is therefore from 1884 that Canada was divided into 7 time zones. There is a 5h30 difference between the first zone in the east, Newfoundland, and the most westerly, Yukon. (By the way, let us mention that it was in 1973 that Yukon time was unified with Pacific time, reducing the number of time zones to 6 and the difference from east to west in Canada to 4:30).

Around the same time, we began to compare the number of hours of sunshine before noon with that afternoon, keeping in mind that most people spend more time awake afternoon than before. So the hours when the sun is shining while people are sleeping are kind of wasted. We wanted to “make good use of” these hours of sunshine… So we thought of moving an hour of daylight from the morning to evening, so that people, once their working day is over, can still enjoy the good weather. . By reducing the period between sunset and the moment of touching the pillow by one hour, and since most people generally get up after sunrise, when the clocks are advanced, this was expected to save energy. The idea of ​​daylight saving time was born.

But… (there is always a but somewhere), this practice did not suit everyone. The farmers did not find the idea very good, because the advance of the hour forced them to start and end their working day an hour earlier compared to solar time. What would be the consequences? The plants that could not be harvested earlier, are still covered with dew. And the cows… No question of milking them an hour after the solar time to which they were accustomed; farmers would then have to start their working day an hour earlier.

In 1918, it was decided to add hours of sunshine to the Canadians’ summer season.

It was therefore after the First World War that the governments of the belligerent countries adopted the advance of time in their respective territories. By advancing the hour, we benefited more from the natural lighting of the sun and we could save on electricity, to then benefit from a surplus of energy to manufacture ammunition or other military supplies. The Parliament of Canada, therefore, passed the Act respecting the use of daylight. This act granted the power to make it compulsory to advance the clock during a prescribed period each year. It was applied as early as 1918. But lively debates followed the application of this law. To appease the disputes, the government did not apply it in 1919 and during the years of peace that followed.

But how was the standard time determined in Quebec? In 1920, a law to set a standard time was passed in Quebec. It thus formalized the separation of Quebec in terms of time zones.

It was in 1924 that a Quebec law concerning the advance of the hour was applied. The municipalities decided as to when the time was advanced. They proceeded by referendum and the government could, or not, decide to follow up on the request of the municipalities. For historical information, Sherbrooke and Quebec (albeit by a slim majority) came out in favor of daylight saving time.

In 1928, another law stipulated that Daylight Savings Time was to begin on the first Saturday in May at midnight and return to standard time on the last Saturday in September at midnight. That year, as well as during the following one, there were orders in council which fixed at different periods the advance of the hour. 

Another page in the history of time was turned during the 2nd World War. On September 21, 1940, the federal government introduced year-round daylight saving time in regions of Quebec and Ontario where daylight saving time was in place during the summer.

In 1942, it was across Canada that a decree establishing daylight saving time was adopted. The latter was repealed on September 30, 1945.

Subsequently, the municipalities could request to switch to daylight saving time during the summer, independently of each other. We know that Montreal and Quebec quickly adopted this practice. In general, at that time, the municipalities whose workers lived mainly from agriculture did not advance the clock in the summer, while those whose inhabitants were mainly factory employees liked this practice. But the more the years progressed, the more the time difference from one municipality to another became a scourge.

In 1953, the eastern regions of the western part of Quebec (we remember that Quebec had been separated on the 68th-degree line) maintained business mainly with Gaspésie and the Maritimes, whereas they were not at the same time zone. 

  • To avoid confusion of days (for example, Sunday 00:01 became Saturday 00:01 and vice versa);
  • Birthdates were getting confusing;
  • The age of majority could happen twice! (A first time before the time change, a second after!)
  • The expiration of the insurances confused damages.
  • It disturbs people less and fewer people in the middle of the night.

In 1969, the dividing line in Quebec was changed. It becomes the 63rd degree of west longitude (ie a little east of Havre St-Pierre, across Anticosti Island, and between Gaspésie and the Magdalen Islands.) To the west, the time normal is 5 hours behind Greenwich, while to the east it is 4 hours behind.

The time change is now governed by provincial legislation. Previously, it was federal legislation. All the provinces change the time, except Saskatchewan which has decided to keep the same time all year round.

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