OTTAWA — International Trade Minister Mary Ng said Friday she hopes Canadians will see the “sincerity” in her efforts to make amends after breaking federal ethics rules.
Ng testified before a parliamentary committee probing the details of her violation, outlined late last year by the federal ethics commissioner.
Mario Dion ruled in December that Ng broke a section of the Conflict of Interest Act by failing to recuse herself from the decision her office made in spring 2020 to hire the public relations firm Pomp and Circumstance, co-founded by the minister’s friend Amanda Alvaro.
Under the act, public office holders are prohibited from making decisions that place themselves in a conflict, including one that could advance the interests of friends or family.
Dion found that the relationship between Alvaro and Ng constituted a friendship, with the pair having known each other for nearly 20 years.
Following the report’s release, the minister apologized in the House of Commons and repeated her apology to MPs on Friday.
“I made a mistake,” Ng said.
During the minister’s testimony, the Opposition Conservatives repeatedly pressed Ng on whether she would repay the money spent on the spring 2020 contract in question, valued at just under $17,000.
Ng said it was not the dollar amount of the contract or the work itself that was the problem, but it was her decision not to recuse herself from the decision-making process that was at issue.
“It was my mistake not to recuse,” she told MPs. “It was not the work itself.
“I apologize for this.”
Liberal MPs on the committee focused on how in spring 2020 federal ministers like Ng — whose portfolio includes small business–were dealing with a massive influx of media requests as the federal government grappled with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to dole out economic supports.
The committee heard from Ng that no staff in her office raised concerns about contracting Alvaro’s firm for its communications help. Alvaro testified that a potential conflict of interest also did not cross her mind.
The minister said she has since taken steps to avoid repeating her error, including plans for her office personnel to receive training from the ethics commissioner.
Ng said she knows she must “work even harder” in light of her ethics violation and hopes Canadians will see her “sincerity.”