MONTREAL -- The day after a debate before the Chamber of Commerce, Montreal’s top mayoral candidates continued on an economic theme, making promises to local business communities.

If re-elected, incumbent mayor Valerie Plante said Tuesday, Projet Montreal plans on improving the experience in the Village by providing funding for pop-up shops and creating meeting spaces for citizens.

“We can definitely think outside of the box -- that’s what we want,” said Plante.

The local merchants’ association, SDC du Village Montreal, said the Village is back to thriving like it was before COVID-19 hit.

“We have the same amount of empty premises [as] before the pandemic. A lot of new shops opened during the pandemic,” said Gabrielle Rondy, interim director general of the merchants’ group.

The neighbourhood attracts hundreds of thousands of pedestrians in the summer and could use some sprucing up, said Rondy.

“The Village needs, definitely, love – lots of love, and money, of course,” she said.

Plante said her team is pledging $16.7 million extra for that sector.

“For me, this is very serious,” she said.

In the meantime, the city will be digging up that part of on Ste. Catherine St. East in two years.

“We’re thinking about six months of work. So we’re going to start in winter 2023 and it’s probably going to go over the summer,” she said.

Plante’s main competitor, Denis Coderre, is also promising investments for the business sector.

He plans on setting aside $50 million for merchants’ associations and community groups.

“Local business is key for us,” said the Ensemble Montreal leader.

“Not only will we determine the way that we manage the quality of life in our district, but at the same time we need to make sure that we enhance the attractiveness to make sure that people are coming here.”

Mayoral candidate Balarama Holness said not enough is being done to help business communities in outlying boroughs.

“What’s happening is in St-Michel, LaSalle, Montreal North, St-Laurent, we do not see the same economic activity in these boroughs on the periphery. We want to decentralize it,” said the Mouvement Montreal candidate.

“More importantly we provide tax incentives for small businesses to establish themselves in these boroughs on the periphery.”

All three will square off at the English debate on Oct. 28. The municipal election is on Nov. 7.