MONTREAL -- A community hit hard by the pandemic, and reeling from recent incidents of gun violence, Montreal North election candidates say the borough needs a strong voice in council.

Even on a rain-soaked weekend, mayor-hopefuls hit the pavement Saturday in an effort to garner support in their neighbourhoods.

“The citizens of Montreal-Nord need proactive teams that listen to them,” said Ensemble Montreal candidate Christine Black, a former youth support worker and incumbent mayor.

She’s betting her re-election, in part, on vows to build a new sports centre, as well as improving road safety and parks -- she blames Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante for delays. She also vowed to build more social housing.

Montreal North was one of the hardest hit communities in the country by the pandemic, and vaccinations rates lagged behind other areas.

Projet Montreal candidate Will Prosper says the borough could’ve handled the pandemic better.

“We were the epicenter of COVID-19 in all of Canada,” he said. “Our organization [was the first] to go and distribute mask and healthcare to the population,”

Prosper co-founded the youth group Hoodstock after police shot and killed Fredy Villanueva in 2008.

In the face of several apparent instances of gang violence, he wants more funding for youth services and additional resources for police.

“Right now, we're investing in adding social workers who understand the realities of people with mental issues to be the first responders,” he said. “I think that's huge progress from what we've seen in the past”

His candidacy hasn't been without controversy, however. Prosper was forced to resign from the RCMP for disciplinary reasons over 20 years ago, it was recently revealed.

Another candidate, Mouvement Montreal's Carl-Henry Jean-Francois, is presenting himself as an alternative. He says previous administrations haven’t done enough to address long-standing issues within the community.

In the past, Jean-Francois has blamed a rise in gun violence in the borough on inaction from Black and former mayor Denis Coderre’s administration, specifically their “failure to invest in urban youth in Montreal North.”

“We’re going to come, and we're going to work on the problems,” he said Saturday.

All three agreed that, whoever is in power after the Nov. 7 vote, the administration should allocate more resources to police and recreational facilities.