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Report On Business Alberta businesses warn against proposal to end daylight time changes

A Westjet plane takes off in Calgary. The airline says its use of Calgary as its hub city would be undermined by the proposed new time zone.

Todd Korol/Reuters

Alberta businesses are coming out against a proposal from a member of Premier Rachel Notley's government to create a new time zone for the province.

WestJet Airlines Ltd., as well as the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, are warning of early-morning flights and late-night hockey games if a private member's bill working its way through Alberta's legislature is approved. The bill, which would end the ritual of springing forward and falling back, would leave the province in Mountain Daylight Time year-round in a renamed time zone that would be known as Alberta Standard Time.

Businesses told a legislative committee studying the bill in early September that a full impact study is needed because the oil-rich province's economy would fall out of sync with most of its customers across North America. The province's clocks would only match those of Saskatchewan, which did away with daylight savings in the 1960s.

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"We worry about the unintended consequences of taking our province out of alignment with many of the markets and customers with whom we do business every day," Lynn Wyton, an executive at Edmonton International Airport, warned the committee.

While the government conducted a survey over the summer which it says showed widespread public support for the end of seasonal time changes, business executives have said the proposed legislation could have a significant impact on business with neighbouring British Columbia. There would be a two-hour time difference between the provinces over the winter months.

WestJet's use of Calgary as its hub city would be undermined by the new time zone, according to Brian Znotins, a vice-president with the airline. He said flights currently leaving Vancouver at 6 a.m. would need to leave at 5 a.m. after the change to make connections in Alberta, an "unappealing" departure time that might cause some travellers to consider flights from Seattle instead, he said.

"It goes without saying that in a fragile economy, which is just now showing signs of recovery, we want to ensure that policy decisions made will assist rather than hinder that recovery," said Mr. Znotins.

The Edmonton Oilers would have 13 games in the coming season affected by the change, according to the team, with some games starting at 9:30 p.m. and ending close to midnight. These would be some of the latest starts in the NHL. The same concern was shared by the Calgary Flames.

The bill was put forward in the spring by Thomas Dang, Alberta's youngest ever MLA, who has called the current system a "dated practice." Three-quarters of Albertans canvassed by the government said they supported the bill. The most-cited reasons included the end of a twice annual disruption to lives, health concerns about sleeping and mental health, as well as evidence that traffic accidents spike after changing the clock.

The committee looking into the bill will meet on Tuesday and is expected to report to the legislature on Oct. 4.

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