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What is a By-Law?

A by-law is the municipal version of an Act of the provincial legislature or federal parliament; it reflects the law within the territory of the municipality. The Municipal Act provides that if a council is expressly required or authorized to do something by by-law, it may do it only by by-law.
A routine by-law is normally drafted by the CAO, however specialized by-laws, especially those with offence and penalty provisions, are typically drafted by the municipal solicitor. The municipal solicitor has the necessary background for this function and, in case the by-law is contested, will be in a better position to conduct a defense of the municipality’s position.
A by-law is passed by "reading” it three times, with a motion for each reading being passed by the majority vote of council. No more than 2 readings may be given at any one meeting.
Prior to adopting a by-law, council will want to consider the following questions:
  • does council have the authority to deal with the matter (is it within the power of municipal government to legislate);
  • what does the by-law propose to accomplish;
  • is the by-law necessary and reasonable;
  • how is it to be implemented and enforced (is council prepared to enforce it consistently; can it be reasonably enforced);
  • what cost will be involved in administering the by-law (can existing staff reasonably be expected to absorb the additional responsibilities or will additional staff be required);
  • what will the impact be on the community; and
  • will it impose restrictions or hardships on particular areas or groups of people, and how will council deal with the public reaction.