By-laws are municipal laws that deal with matters that can have significant implications for people and property in the municipality.

Before passing a by-law, Council needs to understand the impact of the proposed by-law, not only on residents and property

owners as a whole, but also on specific property owners, such as cottagers, farmers, and businesses.

Council should also consider the municipality’s ability, as well as

the resources required, to administer and enforce the by-law. Municipalities enforce their by-laws in various ways, including by inspecting property, issuing compliance orders, issuing fines and taking a matter to court. Municipalities can often share the services of a by-law enforcement officer with a neighboring municipality.

Procedures must be followed when passing a by-law to ensure the process is transparent and to provide opportunity for public debate. These procedures are:

  • Passed by a majority of council at a meeting that is open to the public. By-laws can only be passed in an open meeting of council. The public can hear Council's debate and know Council's decision.

  • Given three separate "readings". Council must vote on the proposed by-law three different times, with an opportunity for Council discussion and debate between each vote. The

public also has the opportunity to express their views before each vote.

  • At least two council meetings, with no more than two readings at the same meeting. A minimum of two council meetings are required, with Council giving two readings at one meeting. Councils can consider the input from citizens before making a final decision.

  • Recorded vote on the third reading of a by-law. The recorded vote ensures that the public is aware of how each council member voted on the matter.

Some by-laws have additional conditions that must be met before a by-law can be passed, such as giving public notice and holding a public hearing. Generally, these conditions are established to provide citizens with an additional opportunity to participate in the decision-making process on matters that may have a significant impact on them, such as proposed local improvements or special services that will increase property taxes.

Other by-laws, such as borrowing by-laws or by-laws that establish water rates, require approval of the Municipal Board or the Public Utilities Board before they can be passed. These Boards play a key role in protecting citizens' interest and ensuring the long-term financial sustainability of municipalities.