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Saskatchewan hits snooze button on daylight savings referendum Add to ...

Time is going to stand still in Saskatchewan - or at least the clocks won't be changing.

The government said Thursday that it will not hold a promised referendum on daylight time in conjunction with a provincial election in November.

Municipal Affairs Minister Darryl Hickie said a recent poll commissioned by the province shows that two-thirds of just over 1,000 people surveyed oppose making the switch.

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"When you see numbers like this, 2-to-1 … I think we have a pretty strong message going forward that people in the province want to stay as we are right now. Don't move the clocks back or forward," said Mr. Hickie.

The provincewide poll done by Fast Consulting between Jan. 10 and Jan. 24 found that 66 per cent of 1,012 Saskatchewan residents would oppose switching to daylight time, while 27 per cent would support the move. Seven per cent of respondents did not express an opinion.

The poll has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Mr. Hickie said the findings are similar to those in a recent poll done for a local newspaper. That's why there's no need to go through the effort and expense of a referendum, he said.

"If these current polling results had been much closer, I believe we would have moved forward on a referendum. But this is strong opposition to it so we're saving taxpayers dollars and moving forward on the next issue."

Mr. Hickie said holding the referendum with the Nov. 7 election would have cost about $100,000, plus $400,000 for an informational campaign to explain the issue to people. But the minister insisted that those surveyed knew enough to decide for everyone.

"The question posed was very simple: Do you support or are you opposed to a move to DST [Daylight Saving Time] Now, people in Saskatchewan, I believe the group that was used are very informed."

Most of Canada will "spring ahead" from standard time to daylight time in the wee hours Sunday morning.

Saskatchewan is the only province that stays on central standard time all year.

The issue has been hotly debated in Saskatchewan since 1966 when the Time Act was introduced. East has been pitted against West and urban against rural ever since.

Some farmers fear that shifting the clocks would disrupt feeding and milking schedules for animals. They are also not happy about the prospect of having their children wait in the cold pre-dawn of a Saskatchewan winter for the school bus.

Businesses have long pushed for the change to standardize their operations.

There's also the argument about which time zone to adopt - central or mountain. The dividing line bisects the province. Although, according to a backgrounder circulated by the NDP government in 2004, Saskatchewan is actually in the mountain time zone.

The rules of standardized time dictate that the mountain zone extends 7.5 degrees to either side of the 105th meridian. That meridian runs north to south, virtually splitting Saskatchewan in half. Theoretically, that means the eastern boundary of the mountain zone would extend all the way into Manitoba.

The Saskatchewan Party promised during the 2007 election campaign to hold a referendum on the issue.

Leader Brad Wall, who is now premier, said at the time: "It's time for a vote in the province" and "We'll be able to decide on this matter, hopefully, once and for all."

Mr. Wall was out of the country on a trade mission Thursday, but Mr. Hickie said the government has kept its word.

"I think over time we'll still see it come up. I mean there are people in the province and groups that still want to move to DST," Mr. Hickie said.

"At this time though, we believe that coming into an election year that we've kept the intent of our promise."

Saskatchewan is not the only jurisdiction where governments have given up. Shortly after the creation of Nunavut in 1999, the government in Iqaluit tried to collapse the sprawling territory's three time zones into one, if only for the sake of unity.

That would have put residents of Kugluktuk, north of Edmonton, on the same time as Iqaluit, north of Montreal. The western communities rebelled and the territorial government backed down.



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