Alberta voted to keep daylight savings as-is by a narrow margin, a result with ramifications for the NWT, which was looking to its southern neighbour for guidance.
In recent years, the NWT government has said the best decision on daylight savings for the NWT is to see what nearby provinces do. In practice, that means Alberta, which occupies the same time zone.
“The Department of Justice is recommending that the Government of the Northwest Territories follow a similar approach to Alberta,” the territory said in 2020 when the issue was raised in the legislature.
On Tuesday, Elections Alberta said the province had voted to keep daylight savings as it currently works.
It was a close call, though. Across Alberta, 50.2 percent of voters said no to adopting year-round daylight savings time. The other 49.8 percent voted for the change.
Fewer than 3,000 votes decided the matter.
Alberta’s premier, Jason Kenney, acknowledged the result was “as close as it gets to a tie.” Even so, it is legally binding and Alberta said it would halt preparatory work for a change.
The wording of the question is important. Albertans were being asked not just whether they wanted daylight savings or not, but specifically whether they wanted to keep the status quo or move to daylight savings year-round. The alternative is cancelling daylight savings entirely and remaining on standard time year-round, an option not provided on the ballot.
“I don’t think there’s a clear majority on that, which is why the Alberta vote is so close,” Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson – the most prominent supporter of change in the NWT – told the CBC before the result was known.
Alberta defended the wording of the question, saying the only change that made sense was permanent daylight savings. The province argued permanent standard time would be “completely out of sync with all of our trading partners and the rest of the continent.”
“If this fails, it forces us in the NWT to start all over with that debate,” Johnson told the CBC ahead of the result.
There is no timeline by which the NWT is obligated to make any decision of its own. Earlier this year, the territory moved to enshrine in legislation the right to move to a year-round solution – either daylight savings or standard time – if it so chose.