Balarama Holness, activist and former CFL player, enters Montreal mayoral race

·2 min read
Balarama Holness, activist and former CFL player, enters Montreal mayoral race
Advocate Balarama Holness will be running for Montreal mayor under his new party, Mouvement Montreal. (Kate McKenna/CBC - image credit)
Advocate Balarama Holness will be running for Montreal mayor under his new party, Mouvement Montreal. (Kate McKenna/CBC - image credit)

After months of speculation, Balarama Holness, a lawyer, activist and former member of the Montreal Alouettes, is officially throwing his hat in the ring for the Montreal mayoral election.

Holness will be running under his new party, Mouvement Montréal. He said he plans to have a full slate of 103 candidates for the municipal election on Nov. 7.

"Montrealers expect a fairer government that understands the struggles that small business owners, seniors, youth, and Montrealers from all backgrounds have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic," he said in a statement Thursday announcing his candidacy. "They expect more from their politicians – and I am here to deliver results."

His platform will prioritize Montrealers' job security, affordable housing and accessible public transportation.

In the next four weeks, the new party will introduce candidates in Montreal's Ville-Marie, Sud-Ouest and Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce boroughs, Holness said at a news conference.

"Creating a new party, there's this idea that you must wait, you have to be a city councillor," he said.

"We don't have to create ceilings for ourselves. Many people will say 'take your time'. We won't take our time."

WATCH | Balarama Holness wants to be Montreal's first Black mayor:

Holness said he plans to reduce taxes for businesses in low-income areas, such as Montréal-Nord, Saint-Michel and Rivière-des-Prairies—Pointe-aux-Trembles.

"We have to modernize city hall and modernize our economy," he said. "Right now, there's a major focus on the city centre. However all 19 boroughs can become economic hubs in their own right."

Community organizing

While studying law at McGill University, Holness ran unsuccessfully as a Projet Montréal candidate in Montréal-Nord in 2017.

The same year, he founded Montreal in Action, a social justice group which collected 20,000 signatures, urging the city to hold consultations about systemic racism in municipal institutions.

The Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM) released 38 recommendations in 2020 based on the consultations.

Its final report found the city could not "efficiently" fight systemic racism and discrimination, leading to the creation of a Commissioner to Counter Racism and Discrimination position.

Holness also won a Grey Cup with the Montreal Alouettes in 2010.

He joins incumbent Mayor Valérie Plante and former mayor Denis Coderre in the race.

Jean-François Cloutier (Équité Montréal), Marc-Antoine Desjardins (Ralliement pour Montréal) and Gilbert Thibodeau (Action Montréal) have also announced their candidacy.