Trade Minister Mary Ng breached conflict of interest law in media training contract awarded to friends and commissioner rules

Marie U, Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development, speaks during a question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, May 2022.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The federal ethics commissioner has ruled that Trade and Small Business Minister Mary Ng breached the Conflict of Interest Act in connection with two media training contracts awarded to close friends.

Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion released the ruling in a detailed report on Tuesday, along with a strongly worded statement about the minister’s conduct.

“Minister Ng’s failure on two occasions to be aware of a potential conflict of interest involving a friend was negligent in her obligations under the Conflict of Interest Act,” Mr Dion said. “There’s simply no reason to sign with a friend’s company.”

International trade minister Mary Ng under ethics probe over contract with firm co-founded by Liberal strategist

The investigation focused on two media training contracts awarded to Pomp & Circumstance, a public relations agency co-founded by Amanda Alvaro. The report determined that Ms Alvaro and Ms Ng were close friends who had vacationed together and celebrated special occasions such as birthdays and holidays together.

The commissioner’s report said Ms. Ng participated in a decision related to a $5,840 contract in March 2019 and directly made a decision related to a $16,960 contract in April 2020.

“The simple fact that, as a public official, she accepts the services of a friend under a contract paid out of public funds from her ministerial office should have prompted Ms Ng to consult that office as to the appropriateness of the situation, rather than withdrawing herself entirely from it, and obtain similar services from another provider,” the report states.

The commissioner’s office launched an investigation at the formal request of Conservative MP James Bezan.

Ms Wu responded to the report in a statement on Twitter.

“As the Commissioner’s report makes clear, I reiterate now that I take full responsibility for my actions,” she said. “I should recuse myself and apologize to everyone for not doing so.

“I have never come across any issue of personal benefit, nor has anyone knowingly benefited improperly. My current good faith efforts fall short of my personal high standards of transparency and responsible conduct, which Canadians have a right to expect from their elected officials This. I am sorry for this shortcoming and it will not happen again in the future.”

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