Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Balkissoon rose to prominence as the head of Scarborough Homeowners Alliance For Fair Taxes, an organization that challenged the province's property assessment system. In 1988, he ran for Scarborough city council in what was then Ward 13. With the formation of the new amalgamated city of Toronto, he was elected to Toronto City Council in 1997. As chair of the city's Audit Committee he was credited with uncovering a dubious computer leasing deal between the city and MFP Financial, which eventually lead to the formation of the Toronto Computer Leasing Inquiry. Balkissoon also served for a period on the Police Services Board on which he was critical of then-Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino as well as the Toronto Police Association and its leader at the time, Craig Bromell.
On November 24, 2005 Balkissoon was elected as the Member of Provincial Parliament in the riding of Scarborough—Rouge River, replacing Alvin Curling who was appointed as the Canadian ambassador to the Dominican Republic. Balkissoon, as the Liberal Party candidate, won with 58% of the vote. Conservative candidate Cynthia Lai received 24% of the vote and the NDP's Sheila White finished third with 15%. In the Liberal nomination prior to the by-election, the party chose to use a clause in its constitution that declared other candidates invalid, effectively handing the nomination to Balkissoon. This excluded other contenders such as Raymond Cho who considered putting his name forward.