Mayoral candidate Holness wants to bring diversity, new ideas to city hall

Mayoral candidate Holness wants to bring diversity, new ideas to city hall

Movement Montreal is reaching out to people who don’t vote because they’re not interested or don’t usually see themselves reflected in candidates.

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Balarama Holness is not a household name, but the Montreal mayoral candidate is certain that will change by the time voters go to the polls in the Nov. 7 municipal election.

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The community organizer, who has degrees in law and education, says his new party, Movement Montreal, will bring more diversity, fresh faces and new ideas to city hall.

“We can stand our ground very well against these other candidates (current mayor Valérie Plante and her predecessor Denis Coderre),” Holness said Friday at the official launch of his mayoral campaign.

“This is a three-way race and the media has to give a young party an opportunity to establish itself.”

Holness, a former Montreal Alouette, says the city needs an alternative to Plante and Coderre. He plans to target the thousands of Montrealers who often sit out municipal elections for a lack of interest or because they don’t see themselves reflected in candidates.

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“We are a diverse, ethnocultural group of people in the arts, culture, law and education,” Holness said during a news conference in Old Montreal.

Movement Montreal has 35 candidates in 11 of the city’s boroughs, however Holness will be on the ballot for mayor in all 19 boroughs.

He acknowledged that persuading people to support a new party is a big challenge, but said having candidates from diverse backgrounds will help the party grow.

The party is committed to building 24,000 social housing units and 30,000 affordable rental units.

He also wants to increase the city’s taxation powers and give Montreal more control over immigration, which is a federal and provincial responsibility.

Because Montreal is a bilingual city, all documentation and communication from the city to citizens should be available in both French and English, Holness said.

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“We want businesses from all walks of life to be able to operate in both languages,” he said, adding that he’s also committed to protecting the French language.

He wants more immigrants and anglophones hired as civil servants, saying they will be able to improve their French skills by working closely with francophones. At present, a difficult French test keeps many non-francophones out of city jobs, he said.

Anastasia Pomares, who is running as a city councillor in Villeray—Saint-Michel—Parc-Extension borough, said she joined Movement Montreal because the party reflects the city’s cultural diversity.

“I know many people from different cultures who are very competent and have interesting backgrounds,” she said. “That’s a richness that Montreal has and it should be reflected (at city hall).”

kwilton@postmedia.com

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