Federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion has determined that the Liberal International Trade Minister Mary Ng contravened ethics rules by awarding a contract to her friend.
In spring 2020, Ng’s office awarded a $17,000 contract to public relations firm Pomp and Circumstance. According to the Canadian Press, the firm’s co-founder Amanda Alvaro is Ng’s friend.
In May, Conservative MP James Bezan filed a complaint with the ethics commissioner over a potential breach of conflict-of-interest rules.
In response to that complaint, Dion released a report saying Ng and Alvaro’s relationship fit the definition of friendship under the Conflict of Interest Act.
Dion also learned the firm received another $5,840 contract from Ng in 2019.
“There is simply no excuse for contracting with a friend’s company,” Dion said in a statement Tuesday.
Dion found that the pair had known each other for nearly 20 years. He said Ng said “the entire process was delegated” to her chief of staff, who knew about the friendship.
“Based on the documents provided by both Ms. Ng and Ms. Alvaro, Ms. Ng does not appear to have been involved in the subsequent discussions pertaining to the negotiation of the final terms of the contract,” Dion wrote.
But he said the minister broke a section of the act because she didn’t recuse herself from the process that awarded the contract.
During question period on Tuesday, Ng said she accepts “full responsibility” and should have recused herself the decision-making process around the contract.
“At no time was there any intention for anyone to benefit inappropriately,” said Ng.
“My efforts fell short of my own high personal standard for transparency and accountability, which Canadians have a right to expect from their elected officials. I am sorry, and it won’t happen again.”
Meanwhile, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre pressed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on whether Ng would return the money paid to Alvaro’s firm.