SUISSE news Fall 2018
Economy | Switzerland-Canada Comparisons
Today, daylight saving time is used in over 70 countries and affects about 1.6 billion people. The number of countries grew steadily from 16 in 1970 to 75 in 1990, as most European countries reintroduced daylight saving time and many Asian countries took it up for the first time. In the meantime, some countries — China, India, South Africa and the Philippines among them — abolished it after a short while.
In the past, when lighting a home was the major proportion of electricity consumption, adjusting clocks to take advantage of late-evening sunlight seemed to make sense to save energy. But in today's world, the power required for air conditioning, heaters and electronics substantially exceeds the energy saved by fewer lighting.
Canada was one of the first countries that introduced daylight saving time 100 years ago as a way to save coal. But now, daylight saving time is for many Canadians only a tolerated biannual ritual. And there is one prominent exception: Saskatchewan rejected daylight saving more than 50 years ago. Since 1966, Saskatchewan lives in a perpetual state of daylight saving time. Located in the Mountain Time Zone, the 1.1 million inhabitants synchronize their clocks with Central Standard Time, the time zone located just to the east.
In fact, there are more places in Canada that chose not to change the time: This includes northeastern British Columbia, the East Kootenay region of southeastern B.C., three communities in northwestern Ontario, the eastern tip of Quebec and Southampton Island in Nunavut.
Alberta considered abolishing daylight saving time in 2017. The topic has been debated for months, with people and organizations across the province. In a survey more than two-thirds supported the proposed legislation. However, the Alberta government has rejected a bill aimed at ending the semi-annual time change. The province stated that abolishing daylight saving time would have a negative impact on Alberta’s economy.
Daylight saving time was introduced in Switzerland 1981. Since then, it has remained a controversial issue. When France introduced daylight saving time in 1976, the question arose whether Switzerland should follow. In a referendum, held in 1978, the Swiss people refused to change the hour. But as a growing number of European countries introduced daylight saving time in 1980, the government ignored the 1978 vote and submitted a new proposal to parliament in order to bring the country into line with the new European time standard. The government said a common policy on this issue could facilitate the functioning of a European single market. Switzerland was the last country in Western Europe to adopt the new system. In the meantime, several attempts failed to abolish daylight saving time. Since 2016, a new proposal is pending in the parliament. Surveys show that 62% are in favour of abolishing daylight saving time. But the government insists on its position, saying a policy change would undermine relations with other countries, notably with the most important trading partners.
In February 2018, the European Parliament voted 384 to 153 to review the justification of daylight saving time. If the EU does abolish the time change, Switzerland will follow very quickly.