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A time for change

in Featured/View From The Mainland by

I believe it is time for change. And no, I’m not talking about politics, election issues, the closing of the House of Assembly or any of that stuff. In just a few days, on November 6th, we are going to set our clocks back to standard time. Newfoundland Standard Time for the island and from south of Black Tickle to L’Anse au Claire. Atlantic Standard Time for most of Labrador.

If you’re anything like me – and I bet many of you are happy you’re not – you have to wonder why we have two time zones in a single province. By law, the entire province is on one time zone but the Lieutenant Governor may (and does) make exceptions for any portion of the province.

Newfoundland is half an hour ahead, Labrador is a half a century behind

You see, back in the days when communities like Red Bay South were more closely connected to Newfoundland by road, trade, and family ties it kind of made sense to use Newfoundland Time. I mean, most Labradorians can remember when our harbours were filled with your fishing ships – sometimes headland to headland – and those ships had their clocks set on Newfoundland Time. Early Canadian and American military bases (and common sense) dictated that the rest of Labrador be on Atlantic Time.

But in these modern times where Labradorians (and tourists/truckers) can drive from Wabush to L’anse au Claire to catch a ferry in Blanc Sablon, driving through three time zones doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Yes, I said three. You see (most) of Labrador is on Atlantic Time because it makes sense (I’ll come back to that in a minute). Then you drive through Newfoundland Time which doesn’t make much sense, and I’ll come back to that too. Then you cross into Quebec’s Lower North Shore (QLNS) which operates on Atlantic Standard Time – period. No daylight savings time at all.

But it is far from convenient for our fragile – but growing – tourism industry.

So in the summer, when you can casually walk from L’Anse au Claire to Blanc Sablon, you go back in time an hour and a half. I lived down there for a while, and let me just say it’s convenient when you want to extend your nightcap long after the Labrador bars close. But it is far from convenient for our fragile – but growing – tourism industry. I have heard that tourists often get confused about which time they are targeting for the ferry and sometimes end up watching the ship dancing across the straits from shore.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against your crazy time zone. In fact there are nearly 30 such time zones around the world. Some notable mentions with half hour time zones are India, Iran, Venezuela, and Afghanistan and one super crazy 15 minute offset from India in Nepal. For the most part, countries and states/provinces set their time zones to make commerce more efficient between regions. In other places, regions do it for political differentiation (like Nepal, and Newfoundland) – to get their name on a time zone.

Do you really notice a 15 to 30 minute difference in the sun’s zenith at noon?

The world is a sphere, and there are 24 hours in a day. So there are roughly 15 degrees of longitude for each hour – for each time zone. So if you try to make sense of the Newfoundland Time Zone on this map, you might notice that, indeed, St John’s is 3.5 hours away from Zulu, or Greenwich Mean Time. But Port Aux Basques is 4 hours away from Zulu (which is Atlantic Time). So Newfoundland Time really only “works” east of the overpass (as we all suspected anyway). You might further notice that Black Tickle is about 3 ¾ hours from Zulu, and Wabush is about 4.5 hours, making Newfoundland Time completely irrelevant on the mainland.

So based on that evidence, if you still wanted a separate time zone, the island should be on a 3 hour offset from Zulu and Labrador should follow the QLNS model of locking down on Atlantic Standard Time all year. This is because Labrador is going to become increasingly tied to that region of Quebec as time goes on. However, there is a lot in a name I suppose, and like I said before I don’t mind what you do on the island.

I do have an issue with the imposition of a time zone that doesn’t make much sense

To take an extreme example of a capital city that imposes a time zone across many time zones, China has just one time. Yes, a country that spans 1/6th of the earth has just one time zone for political reasons alone. A person that has their 5:00am sunrise coffee in the east of the country is in the same time zone as someone going to bed at 5:00am just hours after sunset in the west of the country.

If we switch to A.S.T., I guarantee you won’t lose any sleep over it (especially in the spring)

Let me put my argument in better visual terms. I went to this website that allows you to zoom in to any height above any portion of the earth. You can also manipulate the date and time and various other interesting tools.

Exhibit A: the first photo (see below) is a photo of the province just after the summer solstice. While people on the island are commemorating Beaumont Hamel with fireworks, Labradorians are still grilling Caribou burgers and getting the fireworks ready to celebrate Canada Day.

Exhibit B: the second photo is a photo just after the fall equinox. Even on the most equal of days and nights, when the sun shines evenly upon Cain’s land, people in Newfoundland are settled down on the couch with heartburn from all the Thanksgiving moose or turrcrowgull while Labradorians are just sitting down to eat roast duck or goose.

Exhibit C: the third photo is just following the sacred winter solstice. While Newfoundland children are already playing with their toy dories and sleds from Santa Claus, Labrador parents are bawling at their kids to go back to bed: their snowshoes and skidoos can wait ‘til the sun comes up.

(the spring equinox is the same solar input in case you’re wondering why there’s no exhibit D)

I’m not asking you to change your world view, just let Labrador get with the times

I know your time zone is a sensitive topic for Newfoundlanders. It’s quite political, and a source of pride for you. I know this because when I board the MV Northern Ranger, which has no stops in Newfoundland whatsoever, the ship’s time is Newfoundland Time. If you bring this up with the crew (primarily from the Island) they get quite defensive.

So when the time falls back this November 6th, keep it back. Newfoundland is already in a comfortable buffer to ignore daylight savings time and there’s no daylight to save in Labrador (the sun rises at 4:30 and sets at 9:30 in June in Goose Bay for example). Labradorians, town councils, vote with your clocks and switch/stay on Atlantic Standard Time – it makes better sense, especially for the straits. Then petition the Lieutenant Governor to help us all get with the times.

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