What time is it Mr. Premier?
GN to change Nunavut's time zones

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

IQALUIT (Sep 06/99) - When thousands of Nunavut residents turn their clocks back this fall -- in keeping with the master plan of daylight savings -- it's going to involve more than just the usual one-hour-back adjustment.

In fact, people in two of the three regions of the territory are going to have to adjust their timepieces to reflect Nunavut's new single time zone.

That's right ladies and gentlemen, the days of the Kitikmeot region running on mountain time and the Baffin region running on eastern time will be no more. As of Oct. 31, from Sanikiluaq to Chesterfield Inlet and on up to Iglulik, all the tickers in the territory will show the same time.

The big switch isn't something that the GN cooked up overnight The idea was first broached and passed during Nunavut Tunngavik's last annual general meeting and it's slated to become a reality as soon as it receives federal and territorial governmental approval.

While many people may balk at the idea of the change, Premier Paul Okalik said the switch to the central time zone should make things run a lot smoother -- at least from the government's perspective.

"It's very difficult trying to govern with three different time zones," said Okalik, adding that with the onset of decentralization, unless all communities share the same time zone, it would become increasingly more difficult to run the government.

"We're decentralizing so we need to have good functioning offices. Our services have to be available to everyone," said Okalik, no stranger to the hardships inspired by the time difference. "When I was over in the West, it was a juggling act trying to get into contact with my office."

That juggling is expected to end, except of course for some of the people employed by Nunavut's travel industry.

Terry Chegwyn, general manager of Qamutik Travel, said she was anticipating a nightmare of scheduling conflicts and customer complaints.

"I can foresee the problems. I've already had clients call. It's already upsetting the clientele," said Chegwyn.

She noted that perhaps the biggest inconvenience would come from the change in time between Iqaluit and Ottawa.

"The difference of one hour will limit the number of connections people can make and that will make for more overnights and more staying in hotels."

Chegwyn said she hadn't received any positive feedback about the big switch, but she admitted that she thought much of the negativity stemmed from people's resistance to change rather than to the actual change in time itself.

For the most part, she said, it would all depend on how easily the airlines made the transition.

Not a problem, said Carmen Loberg, president of Canadian North.

"I don't really think it will affect us. We struggle with time zones in the airline business all the time," said Loberg.

Estimating that they'd be able to work out any scheduling glitches with arrivals and departures in a very short period of time, Loberg asserted that the move to central time wouldn't cause many waves. He added however, that the day of the actual switch might be a bit chaotic.

"It'll certainly be confusing on the change over day. It'll sure be a bugger."

Over in the western part of Nunavut, Cambridge Bay teacher and vice-principal Judy Cherniak is welcoming the change with open arms.

"There's no doubt that it'll be easier for business across the North and I can see where it will benefit government. Our day starts and ends two hours later than in the East. That slows down the process considerably."

In the Kivalliq's Coral Harbour, where the clocks will tick at status quo, Todd Murphy said it was no big deal to him. He agreed with Cherniak, however, and said he also recognized the benefit to the government and the business sector.

"We get a lot of people that come in for meetings and they're not used to the time change. Their schedules get all screwed up for their meetings," said Murphy, employed at the Co-op Hotel.

"I think it's better and I know a lot of people that think that."