FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – While most of British Columbia will be setting the clocks one hour back, Fort St. John and the entire Peace River Regional District and Fort Nelson is an exception to observing time change.

Fort St. John joins a number of cities across Canada that stay on one time zone all-year-round.

The last time Fort St. John observed daylight saving time was on August 30, 1972.

The city currently observes Mountain Standard Time year-round. What makes Fort St. John and the Regional District unique is that for 238 days they are in sync with the rest of B.C. as the province observes Pacific Standard Time and Pacific Daylight Time, while in the winter months the city is in sync with the time in Calgary and Edmonton which observes MST and Mountain Daylight Time.

According to Larry Evans, local historian and former city councillor, the time synchronization for Fort St. John was meant to be with one province or the other, not alternating with both.

“In 1973-74 the oil patch up here wasn’t doing that well and everything that was working up here was from Alberta, but there was a time change. We were on Pacific Standard Time and they were on Mountain Standard Time. So they decided to come up with a referendum where the area does not change their clocks, they wanted to stay on Mountain Standard Time so that the oil patch didn’t have to change their clocks”, said Evans.

Evans says there were 4 choices on the ballot, but only one could be chosen.

The options included:

  • Pacific Standard including Pacific Daylight Time (B.C.)
  • Mountain Standard Time including Mountain Daylight Time (A.B.)
  • Pacific Standard Year Around
  • Mountain Standard Time Year Around
The time zone options as they appeared on the ballot in 1974. Courtesy of Larry Evans

Evans says that when it came to voting, there was some confusion as to what they were voting for.

“It was two camps, as near as I could figure, one wanted to be on MST as that was Alberta time and when you’re dealing back and forth all the time you don’t have to worry about a time change. The other group wanted to stay on PST which was B.C. time and change when we change, but the question that everybody checked off, thinking that was what they were asking for, was actually asking not to change their clocks at all”, said Evans.

Evans says they meant to choose option two as this would make Fort St. John in complete sync with Alberta. Since they chose Mountain Standard Time, without daylight savings time, this explains why the city is stuck between two time zones for parts of the year.

“In this case, I know exactly what they were trying to do and it went completely sideways and there has been no political appetite to change it”.