21 Municipal Law

Municipal Material

Municipal governments are the third level of government that affect our lives. In many ways, municipal bylaws have some of the greatest effect on how we live our day to day life… Where can we park? What pets can we have? How tall can we build a fence? Yet, municipal government information is usually the most difficult to find.

There is no central repository within Ontario for municipal bylaws. Each municipality maintains their own bylaws. Happily, in contrast to even a decade ago, most municipalities do now put a current consolidation of at least some of their bylaws online, and the larger the municipality, the more tends to be online. Less happily, if you need to see what a bylaw looked like before a newer amendment (IE point in time) or a bylaw that hasn’t been made available online, you will have to contact the municipality and request it. Generally these requests are fulfilled, but not necessarily in a particularly timely manner.

Council proceedings are not nearly as accessible as equivalent material from the federal or provincial government. Even the largest cities do not produce transcripts (IE easily searchable text). Agendas, and sometimes minutes and reports are likely to be available, often for at least a few years, and can help you narrow down dates on which a topic was discussed, and perhaps who was involved in the discussion. Some municipalities broadcast their council meetings, either through local cable, or online, and sometimes there are archives of past recordings of these broadcasts. However, this is very much on a municipality by municipality basis.

Indeed, this is the overarching theme of researching municipal materials and processes… The information available, and the means by which you can access that information, are wholly dependent on each municipality in question. Often, the only thing you can do is essentially throw yourself on the mercy of a municipal clerk, and hope that they have access to, knowledge of, and a willingness to share the information you need.


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Legal Research - A Practical Perspective Copyright © 2022 by Meris Bray is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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