A senior Justin Trudeau aide has taken leave from the Prime Minister's Office to run for the Liberal nomination in the riding vacated by former immigration minister John McCallum.
Mary Ng, who served as Mr. Trudeau's director of appointments, is seeking to carry the Liberal banner in the coming by-election in Markham-Thornhill, a riding with a significant Chinese-Canadian population. Census data indicates the ethnic makeup of this Greater Toronto Area electoral district is more than 35 per cent Chinese and more than 30 per cent South Asian.
In her campaign notice, Ms. Ng highlights the PMO role she played in helping select members of Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board – which makes decisions that can affect would-be immigrants to this country. But she only did this in the Chinese-language version of the news release, saying as director of appointments in the PMO, she was responsible for matters "regarding appointing judges, heads of Crown corporations and judges of [the] Immigration and Refugee Board" to their posts.
Her English-language news release did not include this line.
Ng campaign spokeswoman Amanda Alvaro underlined that the statement about the immigration board should be read in its full context and it sought to explain what her director of appointments job entailed.
She said the Chinese-language version of the news release was written for the Chinese media, saying the English and Chinese-language releases were "intended for two different audiences."
Ms. Ng's pitch to voters leads with her public-sector experience at Queen's Park, where she worked as a civil servant and as an aide to Liberal Gerard Kennedy when he was education minister in the McGuinty government, as well as her stint as assistant to former Ryerson University president Sheldon Levy.' Her ethnic background, however, is another major selling point. Ms. Ng's campaign announcement actually highlights it, saying she "is the highest ranking Chinese-Canadian to have ever served in the Prime Minister's Office."
The Trudeau aide also takes pains to point out she "recently accompanied and advised the Prime Minister" on his first official trip to China late last summer.
It might seem surprising that Ms. Ng, whose job is to oversee plum government appointments in Canada, should be asked to advise the government on Chinese relations.
But Mr. Trudeau's office said Wednesday that Ms. Ng's duties went beyond appointments. "Mary Ng was a member of the Prime Minister's senior staff. As is the case for all senior staff members, she acted as an adviser to the Prime Minister in addition to managing appointments," PMO spokeswoman Andrée-Lyne Hallé said. "Members of the senior staff have a wide range of expertise and as such, they travel regularly with the Prime Minister to advise him on both domestic and international issues."
Ms. Alvaro said the description of Ms. Ng in the campaign news release is well-rounded.
"There's references to a lot of what makes Mary, Mary. Her ethnicity, her 20 years experience in public service, her background in education and entrepreneurship. The fact that her parents immigrated here from Hong Kong and how she watched them struggle and eventually succeed on Canadian soil – like so many immigrant families. She has a compelling story that a lot of people can relate to," Ms. Alvaro said.
Ms. Ng has also amassed a number of written endorsements – which she has placed on her campaign website votemaryng.ca – that again underline her Chinese-Canadian background.
Ontario Member of Provincial Parliament Han Dong is quoted as saying Ms. Ng would help increase the quotient of Chinese Canadians in the Commons. "Under the Liberal tent, we have tripled the number of Chinese Canadians elected since 2014, but that does still not fairly reflect equality in our parliaments," Mr. Dong said.
Another endorsement on her website makes an erroneous claim that should Ms. Ng win the seat, she would be the "first Chinese woman member of Parliament in Ottawa." There have been a number of Chinese-Canadian members of Parliament including current MPs such as Alice Wong and Jenny Kwan from British Columbia.
With a report from Xiao Xu in Vancouver