Montreal mayor names Cathy Wong speaker of city council

Opposition councillor Cathy Wong has been named speaker of Montreal's city council.

Move helps address criticism new city hall administration is short on diversity

City councillor Cathy Wong is one of only four visible minorities elected in this month's municipal election. (CBC)

Cathy Wong, a city councillor with the opposition Équipe Denis Coderre, is Montreal's new speaker in city council.

"It's with a lot of humility and pride that I accept this challenge," she said at a news conference on Friday along side Mayor Valérie Plante.

The decision to give Wong the speaker's position helps Plante address an early criticism of her administration lacking diversity.

Wong is one of only four minorities elected in this month's municipal election — not one of them was on Plante's party, Projet Montréal.

"I think that this pressure is a healthy one, I think that it is important that when we come from different cultural backgrounds, that we must make sure those voices are represented," said Wong.

The move also makes Wong the first woman to be speaker of city council.

"To be the first woman to hold this position in 2017 shows all the work that still needs to be done to ensure that municipal democracy becomes accessible," said Wong.

"And so that Montreal can be an example of citizen engagement."

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante named Cathy Wong as city council speaker on Friday. (CBC)

Plante, for her part, said she is happy Wong accepted such an important role.

"It's a role where above all you have to ensure that debates are held openly and to be impartial. It's also a symbolic role. It's the person who represents elected officials and the city council of Montreal," said Plante.

Before joining Équipe Denis Coderre as a candidate, Wong headed the Conseil des Montréalaises, a city hall advisory body on women's issues.

She also served as president of the city's youth council, where she said she got her first taste of municipal politics.

The speaker's role in city council is similar to the speaker in Parliament and National Assembly. Wong will no longer be part of her party's caucus and is not allowed to vote in city council, except in the case of a tie.

In the last administration, the position was held by Équipe Denis Coderre's Frantz Benjamin.