Former Alouette, community activist Balarama Holness announces Montreal mayoral bid

Photo courtesy: McGill University

A former Grey Cup champion is looking to bring big changes to the city of Montreal.

Balarama Holness, the former Montreal Alouette who the New York Times dubbed the ‘Canadian Obama’ last year, has announced his candidacy for mayor of Montreal after forming a new political party known as Movement Montreal.

Holness began his CFL career in 2008 as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Ottawa. The five-foot-11, 195-pound defensive back signed with Winnipeg Blue Bombers, making 12 tackles in his rookie season, ten of those on special teams. He jumped to his hometown Alouettes in 2010, playing four games in a Grey Cup-winning campaign for the Larks.

Since retiring from football, Holness has become a successful jurist and earned a reputation for grassroots community organizing. In 2018, he spearheaded a petition signed by more than 22,000 residents to trigger a public consultation on systemic racism in the city, resulting in 38 official recommendations to address discrimination.

Holness ran unsuccessfully for borough mayor for Montreal North as a member of Projet Montreal in 2017, but has been rumoured for months to be a serious challenger to incumbent Valérie Plante and former mayor Denis Coderre in this race.

In his candidacy announcement Thursday, Holness called his newly formed political party a “new approach to political organizing, campaigning, and policy making will prioritize people’s needs, support their aspirations, and give them a voice.”

He’ll have until November to convince his constituents of that fact.