Patrick Boyer posits that time zones, which are artificial, follow political and economic priorities rather than the natural curves of Earth. This is consistent with daylight saving time zones being embedded within politicised motivations.

This week’s shift to “daylight saving time” is a reminder of just how complicated humans can make things when striving to impose efficient order by our invented constructs of “time.”

For starters, as the world’s second-largest country, Canada’s transcontinental geography embraces six artificial “time zones.” From east to west: Newfoundland standard, Atlantic standard, Eastern standard, Central standard, Mountain standard, and Pacific standard time zones put abrupt edges to the “time of day.” Starting from the “zero point” for time at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich (southeast of London, England), “Greenwich Mean Time” begins the westerly march of hours around the globe, marked off by meridians of longitude.

An efficient measuring system should take no account of seas or borders, cities or farming zones, but politics and economics beat neatness of lines. The 90th meridian, just west of Thunder Bay, being six zones removed from Greenwich, should be a time zone boundary but isn’t. The seventh hour west of Greenwich should start on the 105th meridian, running between Saskatoon and Regina, but it was set instead at the Saskatchewan-Manitoba border, the northern part of which is on the 102nd meridian, so all Saskatchewanians would live in the same time zone. From inception, compromises to accommodate human communities altered the measured boundary lines of time.

Meanwhile from south to north, we simultaneously accommodate nature’s own alternating seasons between the lush Carolinian forest in Ontario’s southernmost area and the high Arctic latitudes far above the treeline that bask in 24-hour summer sunlight and are cloaked with full darkness in winter.

Into this convoluted mix was then added daylight saving time. From the early 1900s use of this artificial construct, often called “Fast Time,” was encouraged throughout Canada on a voluntary basis. It’s under provincial jurisdiction, so across-Canada variety appeared. Even the “time saving” schedule itself was altered, from starting first Sunday in April to the second Sunday in March, and standard time no longer resuming the last Sunday of October, but on the first Sunday in November.

War changes everything. Daylight time was first imposed by edict in Germany on April 30, 1916 to conserve fuel for producing weapons in factories. Canada followed suit by 1918. After the war, Prime Minister Borden’s government heeded protests of rural MPs, including Muskoka’s Dr. Peter McGibbon, about daylight saving time’s adverse economic and social impacts. Farmers lost an hour’s work each day, because cows could not be milked any earlier and heavy dew on the ground made field work impossible. Ottawa repealed the temporary war measure. Provinces resumed control.

Urbanites had fewer problems with daylight saving time. Ontario’s abundant electricity for lighting, heating and operating machinery meant offices and factories no longer had to shut down with darkness, while street lights and electrified homes effectively extended winter’s days. But even people whose lives run like clockwork have diverse time-sensitive tasks to perform, so reaching consensus about altering the clock twice yearly remained challenging.

During the Second World War, Ottawa again invoked emergency powers to force daylight saving time on the entire country. After the war provinces resumed control, with a patchwork of mixed results. Saskatchewan contained three meandering time zones, which created such confusion the exasperated railways ran schedules on standard time year round.

The issue lives on. Last March, the European Parliament voted to permanently remove daylight saving time so, if implemented, 2021 will be the last time EU countries make the seasonal clock change. In November 2019, British Columbia’s government introduced legislation to scrap bi-annual clock changes, make daylight saving permanent, and rename the province’s zone “Pacific Time.”

What time is it where you are?

Boyer, P. 2020 “Excuse Me Muskoka, Could You Please Tell Me What Time It Is?” March 12 2020.


Jawaharlal Nehru states regarding recording the birth of a child that the time that humans construct during periods of war is artificially separated from solar time. This separation occurs because human, war time, is abstracted and ahead of solar time.

Your message about the birth of the little one reached me the same afternoon as your letter giving fuller details…In my letter to Indu, I suggested to her to ask you to get a proper horoscope made by a competent person. Such permanent records of the date and the time of birth are desirable. As for the time, I suppose the proper solar time should be mentioned and not the artificial time which is being used outside now. War time is at least an hour ahead of normal time (Nehru 1963, 162).

Nehru, Jawaharlal. 1963. Nehru’s letters to his sister: Edited with an introduction by Krishna Nehru Hutheesing. London: Faber and Faber.


When daylight saving time was proposed to Winston Churchill by William Willett, the policy was described by Churchill as representing another form of an artificial time under which humans already live. The distinction is made between all forms of artificial, humanly-conceived, time, and a real or natural temporality.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Norfolk, speaking early in the debate, said we should not begin lying in these matters. In these matters the country had begun lying a long time ago. When the local time, which varies in different parts of the country, was made a uniform time for the whole country, a great departure from the truth was undoubtedly made. You created a standard of artificial time, and we have long lived under that standard. Sidereal time is not solar time. Natural time is not solar time, solar time is not Greenwich time. Clock time never corresponds with the sun time, except on the meridian and on particular days in the year. National time is not local time, and when those who are in favour of this Bill are represented with departing from the true time, I am bound to say we may naturally ask not only what is truth but what is time? I venture to think that it is not very easy to discover ultimate sanction for any human or temporal arrangement. It is probable our arrangements about time have been fixed in the past mainly with regard to supposed convenience, and that they are conventional arrangements, to be governed by what we think is convenient for our general habits. Therefore, this Bill does not propose a change from natural time to artificial time, but only to substitute a convenient standard of artificial time for an inconvenient standard of artificial time (Churchill 1909, cc1777).

Churchill, Winston. 1909. “Daylight saving bill.” Hansard 1803-2005 – Commons sitting. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press.


Julia Kristeva illustrates how women are often correlated with a cyclical, natural, maternal temporality, excluded from the linear, historical, progressive temporality that is associated with men. Kristeva further notes first-wave feminism’s attempts to insert women, otherwise deemed to be bound to a natural temporality, into the linear time of social projects and histories.

As for time, female subjectivity would seem to provide a specific measure that essentially retains repetition and eternity from among the multiple modalities of time known through the history of civilizations. On the one hand, there are cycles, gestation, the eternal recurrence of a biological rhythm which conforms to that of nature and imposes a temporality whose stereotyping may shock, but whose regularity and unison with what is experienced as extrasubjective time, cosmic time, occasion vertiginous visions and unnameable jouissance

Temporality…traditionally linked to female subjectivity insofar as the latter is thought of as necessarily maternal should not make us forget that this repetition and this eternity are found to be the fundamental, if not the sole, conceptions of time in numerous civilizations and experiences, particularly mystical ones. The fact that certain currents of modern feminism recognize themselves here does not render them fundamentally incompatible with “masculine” values.

In return, female subjectivity as it gives itself up to intuition becomes a problem with respect to a certain conception of time: time as project, teleology, linear and prospective unfolding; time as departure, progression, and arrival – in other words, the time of history. It has already been abundantly demonstrated that this kind of temporality is inherent in the logical and ontological values of any given civilization, that this temporality renders explicit a rupture, an expectation, or an anguish which other temporalities work to conceal…

In its beginnings, the women’s movement, as the struggle of suffragists and of existential feminists, aspired to gain a place in linear time as the time of project and history. In this sense, the movement, while immediately universalist, is also deeply rooted in the sociopolitical life of nations. The political demands of women; the struggles for equal pay for equal work, for taking power in social institutions on an equal footing with men; the rejection, when necessary, of the attributes traditionally considered feminine or maternal insofar as they are deemed compatible with insertion in that history – all are part of the logic of identification with certain values: not with the ideological (these are  combated, and rightly so, as reactionary) but, rather, with the logical and ontological values of a rationality dominant in the nation-state (Kristeva 1981, 16-19).

Kristeva, Julia. 1981. ‘Women’s Time.’ Translated by Alice Jardine and Harry Blake. Signs 7(1): 13-35.


Vanessa Ogle reports how in 1905, the Indian government sought to introduce a national, standard time, to engender geopolitical cohesion with other countries. Whilst a politically popular decision, Ogle notes that the media, and the Indian population, criticised such a change. The basis of this criticism was that the government had created an artificial, fictitious time, which had separated Indians from their natural, solar time.

In the face of what appeared to be a solid consensus among those canvassed, the Government of India moved to introduce the time five hours and 30 minutes ahead of Greenwich to the colony. The new time was designated as “Indian Standard Time,” to deflect from its potentially controversial “British” source…

In January 1905, the Government of India instructed the Public Works Department to introduce the time five hours and thirty minutes in advance of Greenwich as “Indian Standard Time” while in Burma the time to be adopted would run six hours and thirty minutes fast. As of July 1, 1905, all railways and telegraphs on the Indian subcontinent were to follow the new time…

The Government of India accurately anticipated the opposition to uniform time it was about to unleash, although perhaps less so its scope and intensity. Once more, it was Bombay, and to a lesser extent Calcutta, that became the focal point of collisions between deeply rooted urban identities and imperial policies. In 1905 as compared with 1881, protests against a new colony- wide mean time struck a much more anti- British chord than previously. Now it mattered that this was a time decreed by the British colonizers, that it was “British” time being imposed on colonial subjects. Twenty years after the Government of India’s first brush with time, under the changed circumstances of British rule in India in 1905, retaining local time became a matter of Indian national politics. Indians now perceived the change in official mean times as yet another in a long series of attempts by the colonial state to meddle with local and personal affairs…

Such was the situation when Indian Standard Time was to be introduced in the summer of 1905 on railways and telegraphs. Emboldened perhaps by similar moves of other local administrations, Bombay authorities suddenly made the decision to push for the adoption of Indian Standard Time for all official purposes and in government offices throughout the Bombay Presidency. In October 1905, the Government of Bombay asked the Government of India for permission to introduce the new time.

Outside the meeting halls of the Bombay Municipal Corporation, the general public was voicing its dislike for the new order of time evermore loudly. As with other time changes in Europe and North America, the new Indian mean time was criticized for being “artificial” and unnatural. “We are asked to forget our natural time, the same that we have been familiar with from times immemorial, and adopt the new ‘standard’ which the ingenuity of the Astronomer Royal has devised,” the newspaper Kaiser-i-Hind complained, adding that nature herself must be in rebellion against this time. Later, the paper proclaimed, “nobody has asked for artificial time” to replace a time “which Nature has given to us and which mankind has faithfully followed these eight thousand years at least.” A letter to the editors of the Bombay Gazette found the new time to be “fictitious.” Another newspaper established, “the solar time is really the true time which regulates the affairs of each Indian house hold” (Ogle 2015, 107-12).

Ogle, Vanessa. 2015. The global transformation of time (1870 – 1950). Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press.