Liberal Minister Ng set to face ethics committee for breaking conflict of interest rules

In response to the ethics commissioner's report on Ng, Conservative MPs said this is not the first Liberal minister to face accusations of breaking the rules.

Liberal Minister Ng set to face ethics committee for breaking conflict of interest rules
The Canadian Press / Adrian Wyld
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A parliamentary committee voted Tuesday to review a recent ethics ruling against Justin Trudeau's international trade minister, Mary Ng.

According to a report by Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion last December, Ng broke conflict of interest rules in the spring of 2020 by awarding a $17,000 contract to a friend who co-founded the public relations firm Pomp and Circumstance.

"There is simply no excuse for contracting with a friend's company," wrote Dion in December.

Conservative ethics critic Michael Barrett introduced a motion proposing a study at the House of Commons ethics committee, declaring Canadians deserve transparency into the matter.

The motion for further study passed by consensus, with it to take place over two meetings. 

"After eight years, breaking ethics laws has become as synonymous with these Liberals as higher taxes. And now, for a record fifth time, a liberal minister has been caught breaking ethics laws," said Conservative ethics critic Michael Barrett. 

"At a time when Canadians are struggling to afford to heat their homes and put food on the table for their families, the trade minister was finding the time and taxpayer money to line the pockets of her insider friend."

The Conservatives lodged the initial complaint and pounced on the finding against Ng as an example of the Liberals doling out deals to party insiders — a suggestion Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government rebuffs. 

"Canadians need to know that the government's expenditures are done on their behalf and not to the benefit of any individual," said Barrett at Tuesday's committee meeting.

In December, Trudeau said, "it sucks" when such cases arise, but it's a sign the system is working and that the public is aware of rule breaches.

"Now, from my perspective, it sucks. Because you don't want people to be making mistakes, you want people to be able to focus on delivering good things for Canadians."

Barrett called on the minister to make restitution "for her corruption."

"Another day, another lawless Liberal under this law, lawless prime minister," he claimed.

In his report, Dion concluded Ng's relationship with Amanda Alvaro, a co-founder of Pomp & Circumstance, constituted a friendship under the act. 

In response to Dion's report on Ng, Conservative MPs said this is not the first Liberal minister to face accusations of breaking the rules.

Women and Gender Equality Minister Marci Ien previously gave $10,000 in contracts to a Toronto-based public relations firm specializing in the service industry.

According to expense records, Ien gave Munch More Media two contracts — one in March 2021 for $7,000 and one in July 2021 for $3,000. Lobbying records unveiled she served as Ien's policy director in May 2021.

A Global News analysis of public expense records, as first reported by the publication, showed that the housing minister's constituency office had given the firm at least $93,050 in taxpayer-funded constituency money since January 2021 — representing 14% of the constituency office's budget.

Ng apologized after Dion published his report, declaring she should have recused herself from the process that led to Alvaro's firm securing the contract.

However, she claimed the "urgency" of communicating to Canadian small businesses about the COVID support needed is why she did not recuse herself from the process at the time. But she admitted to making a mistake by not doing so.

The ethics committee plans to call Ng and Alvaro to appear as witnesses and seek documents about the work done.

"We have a system that has the kind of accountability and transparency that works," said Trudeau. "It is clear to reassure Canadians that if someone is taking advantage of the system — either deliberately or by accident — they'll get caught and called out on it."

"That's an example of the institutions working."


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