About Bills, By-laws and the Municipal Code
The City of Toronto Act requires the City to exercise its powers by by-law. By-laws are the primary legislative instrument of municipalities in Ontario, including the City of Toronto.
City Council makes decisions by adopting or amending recommendations from its committees and City officials contained in reports and communications.
These decisions are confirmed by a confirmatory by-law enacted periodically during a meeting and at the end of the meeting. This ensures that every decision is made by by-law.
Some decisions are also the subject of a more specific by-law. These by-laws provide for greater clarity and certainty, and for ease of reference.
Some by-laws are added to the Toronto Municipal Code. The Code is a compilation of selected by-laws organized by subject.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a bill?
What is a by-law?
- A bill is a draft by-law. Once enacted, a bill becomes a by-law.
- Bills are prepared by the City Solicitor.
- Only bills implementing decisions adopted by Council are presented for enactment.
What is the Toronto Municipal Code?
- A by-law is the legal instrument that City Council uses to exercise its powers.
- A by-law becomes effective on the date it is enacted unless it specifies otherwise.
What is a confirming by-law?
- The Toronto Municipal Code is a compilation of selected by-laws organized by subject.
- The Municipal Code contains administrative by-laws and by-laws that have general application to people and places across the City of Toronto.
- By-laws from decisions about specific people, places or things are generally not added to the Municipal Code.
- The Municipal Code is updated frequently so it contains current law.
How many by-laws has the City enacted?
- City Council enacts a confirming by-law periodically during a meeting and at the end of the meeting to confirm all of the decisions made up until the point the by-law is introduced.
- Community Councils enact confirming by-laws to confirm all decisions made under authority delegated to them by City Council.
- This ensures that the City complies with the legal requirement that it act by by-law.
Who Makes By-laws?
- The City and all of its predecessor municipalities have enacted more than 198,000 by-laws since 1834.
- This includes more than 18,000 by-laws enacted since amalgamation.
- In 2012, the City enacted 1,656 by-laws.
How does City council make decisions?
- City Council – City Council enacts by-laws arising from City Council decisions.
- Community Councils – In 2007 City Council delegated final decision-making and by-law making powers to the community councils for certain local matters.
- Debenture Committee – City Council has delegated by-law making powers to the Debenture Committee for the issuance of debentures.
- Ontario Municipal Board – The OMB has the power to pass by-laws for the City on matters brought before it. The OMB makes by-laws for the City approximately 8-12 times annually.
- City agencies and boards – Some City agencies and boards have by-law making power. They are not the subject of this website.
How does the City decide which decisions will be the subject of specific by-laws?
- City Council carries out its powers and duties by making decisions and adopting policies and regulations. These decisions are based on the recommendations contained in reports and communications from City officials, committees and Members of Council.
- All of these decisions are enacted by a confirming by-law. This ensures that the city legally complies with the City of Toronto Act requirement to act by by-law.
- Some, but not all, of these decisions are also enacted by a more specific by-law.
- Some, but not all, by-laws are codified (i.e., consolidated in the Toronto Municipal Code)
How does the City decide which by-laws are added to the Municipal Code?
- By-laws will be enacted for Council decisions that:
- Amend or rescind existing by-laws
- Are frequently consulted or used for reference
- Are regulatory in nature or involve enforcement
Where do bills appear on agendas?
- By-laws will be added to the Municipal Code when they:
- have general application to all people and places in the City
- are frequently consulted or used for reference
- are regulatory in nature or involve enforcement
- By-laws that apply to a one-time event or situation are generally not added to the Municipal Code
- e.g. by-laws appointing a City official
How can I find a by-law or Municipal Code Chapter
How can I find pre-amalgamation by-laws?
- Bill lists are published with agendas of City Council, community councils and the Debenture Committee. Look for the "Bills" button when you navigate to a meeting.
- Browse and search Council and committee Meetings, Agendas and Minutes.
- The agenda item search can help you find recent items that have authorized bills for enactment. Item views can also include "see also" links to related Bills or By-laws.
How often does the City update the Municipal Code?
- Call 416-392-8016 for information about pre-amalgamation by-laws.
- Visit the Toronto Archives at 255 Spadina Road for copies of pre-amalgamation by-laws.
- Some pre-amalgamation by-laws can be viewed online via our By-law Status Registry. These include by-laws for:
- Township, Borough and City of Etobicoke
- Township, Borough and City of North York
- We are working on digitizing old by-laws as time and resources permit.
How do I know if the Municipal Code is up to date?
- The Toronto Municipal Code is updated after every City Council meeting.
Where can I get a certified copy of a by-law or Municipal Code chapter?
- Check the By-laws home page for the current status of the Code. Any by-laws passed since the date indicated will not yet be included in the Municipal Code.
Where can I get a copy of the Zoning By-law?
- We provide certified copies of by-laws and Code chapters for a fee of $20.73 (2013 rate).
- Photocopying charges are $0.52 per page.
- You can obtain a certified copy at any of the following City Clerk's Office locations:
- Toronto City Hall, 12th Floor, West Tower
- Toronto Archives, 255 Spadina Road
- The zoning by-law is very large.
- City Council enacted Zoning By-law No. 569-2013 at its meeting on May 9, 2013.
- The easiest way to consult the zoning by-law is to use the City's Zoning By-law Website resource that includes an Interactive Map.
- To print, you can open the PDF's and print any page, or save the PDF to an USB stick and photocopy it at any of the commercial copy shops.