Alberta NDP MLA hedges on promise to bring in bill to kill daylight time

NDP MLA hedging on time-change promise

EDMONTON — An Alberta NDP backbencher spearheading legislation to ditch daylight saving time now says it’s not a done deal.

The issue seemed to put Edmonton-South West NDP member Thomas Dang at odds with his own caucus Monday, which put out news release announcing Dang’s upcoming private member’s bill will propose ending daylight time and quoted an egg farmer congratulating Dang for doing so.

But Dang said he still wants to hear what Alberta residents think, pointing them to the NDP caucus website and an upcoming town hall meeting.

Dang initially said the new round of consultations would help settle secondary issues, such as whether Alberta adopts mountain or central standard time, but then declined to confirm the bill would end daylight time at all.

“It’s part of ongoing consultations,” he said.

“We’re reaching out to as many Albertans as possible. So, as we hear from people, I think it will become clear to us what we want to do moving forward.”

Dang also questioned a news release put out by his own caucus.

The news release said Dang’s bill, the Amendment to Daylight Saving Time Act “intends to repeal daylight saving time and introduce a year-round standard time in Alberta.”

Dang disagreed.

“I don’t think that there was anywhere in the advisory that said to kill the DST,” he said.

The caucus also put out a news release Monday quoting egg farmer Susan Schafers saying, “I support MLA Dang’s private member bill to abolish daylight saving time, as the time change is not only an inconvenience for farmers, but plays havoc with the natural rhythm of poultry.”

Opposition critics said the NDP is sowing confusion.

“We see Thomas Dang three weeks away from the start of the (spring) legislative session still sending mixed messages about a piece of legislation he has announced,” said Wildrose house leader Nathan Cooper.

“This is not a good way to make public policy.”

Progressive Conservative member Richard Starke, who has already introduced to move Alberta to central time year-round, said the consultation appears to be a sham.

“The only thing consistent about this government is the inconsistency in the way they approach consultation,” said Starke.

“First they decide what they’re going to do, then say ‘Oh, but we’re going to go out and consult.’

“Is this a done deal or isn’t it? Back before Christmas it was a done deal.”

Starke said the issue of which time zone Alberta adopts — mountain versus central — is also critical.

He said central time is preferable for tourism operators. They want longer evenings in the summer which give people four or five hours to golf or enjoy other outdoor pursuits after work, Starke said.

“It’s a difference of millions of dollars,” said Starke.

Daylight time has been a long-running controversy in Alberta since it was brought in by plebiscite in 1971. Critics say it is an outdated and nettlesome concept that interrupts sleep patterns and causes confusion for little benefit.

Dang said a referendum is not necessary and consultations already underway should be a good gauge of public sentiment.

He also said money is a factor since plebiscites “cost significant amounts of money.”

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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