Time change has Thunder Bay origin

By Sandi Krasowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Many of us are still struggling to adjust to turning clocks ahead one hour to switch to daylight time on Sunday, and we can thank Thunder Bay for this.

It all began in 1908 when Fort William and Port Arthur became the first places in the world to institute a form of daylight time, an archivist said.

“Both cities switched to eastern time on May 2, 1908 and back to western or central time on Nov. 1, 1908,” said Christina Wakefield, who works at the City of Thunder Bay Archives.

“By 1910, they had both adopted eastern time, which was considered to be a permanent move to daylight saving time.

Among the reasons for the implementation of daylight time was the co-ordination of workers in the grain shipping industry.

“Because the port workers in Thunder Bay were in one time zone and workers coming in on a ship or train were in the Toronto time zone, they ended up having essentially two hours of lunch where nobody was doing any work.”

The time change provided an extra hour of daylight for sports and leisure activities, gardening, family time and for the agricultural industries.

Through polls, consultations and election plebiscites, the two cities arbitrarily jumped back and forth from central time to eastern time.

At one point, both cities found themselves in two different time zones.

“The Dominion Government proposed daylight saving time as we now know it, for the whole country during the First World War in 1916,” Wakefield said. “Implementing it meant double daylight saving time for the Lakehead during the spring and summer. Both cities went back and forth on the issue many times as it was implemented again and again across Canada over the next 60 years.”

She said that in 1972, the citizens of Thunder Bay voted in favour of permanently implementing the spring switch to daylight time and fall reversion to eastern standard time.