It was with the Toronto Argonauts that Barnes enjoyed his greatest success in the team's run and shoot offence. At first due to injury and the excellent play of Condredge Holloway Barnes played sparingly in 1982. Starting in 1983 he was working in tandem as QB with Holloway. For two seasons the tandem combined for over 5000 yards. In 1983 Holloway had 3184 and Barnes had 2274. The next season the numbers reversed with Barnes leading with 3128 followed by Holloway with 2231. Barnes helped lead Toronto to a long awaited Grey Cup victory in 1983. As was his style, he came off the bench in the second half and engineered the game winning drive and TD, a pass to Cedric Minter, in the final minutes. He was named the Grey Cup Most Valuable Player for his heroics.
In 1984 he was named an all star. In 1985 he was traded to the Calgary Stampeders but the team struggled for wins. After 11 games he was returned to Montreal in a trade, now with the Montreal Concordes, and played with the briefly renamed and reborn Alouettes in 1986.
Barnes was known for his unpredictable and effective scrambling.