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Mary Ng, Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development holds a joint press conference in Ottawa, on Dec. 2, 2022.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

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, while sidestepping demands that she resign or refund taxpayers.

Ms. Ng testified on Friday before a parliamentary committee that is probing the details of a contract that her office awarded to the firm of one of her friends.

Federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion ruled in December that the minister violated the Conflict of Interest Act by failing to recuse herself from the decision to hire the public relations company Pomp and Circumstance, which was co-founded by longtime Liberal strategist Amanda Alvaro.

Under the act, public office holders are prohibited from making decisions that put them in a conflict, including any activities that could advance the interests of friends or family.

Mr. Dion found that the relationship between Ms. Alvaro and Ms. 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. She repeated that apology to members of the House ethics committee on Friday.

“I made a mistake,” Ms. Ng said.

During the minister’s testimony, the Opposition Conservatives repeatedly pressed Ms. Ng on whether she would repay the money spent on the spring 2020 contract in question, valued at just under $17,000.

“Do you think that your resignation is warranted in this case?” questioned Tory ethics critic Michael Barrett.

“I think that, in this case, I’ve already said that I have made an error,” the minister replied.

Ms. 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.”

In later testimony, she added: “No one stole.”

Liberal MPs on the committee focused on how, in spring 2020, federal ministers like Ms. 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 Ms. Ng that no staff in her office raised concerns about contracting Ms. Alvaro’s firm for its communications help. Ms. 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.

Ms. Ng said she knows she must “work even harder” in light of her ethics violation and hopes Canadians will see her “sincerity.”