02/15/2017 13:27 EST | Updated 02/16/2018 00:12 EST

Mary Ng, PMO's director of appointments, hopes to run for McCallum's vacant seat

OTTAWA — Mary Ng says being part of the team around Prime Minister Justin Trudeau inspired her to try and make the leap from policy to politics.

Ng announced Wednesday she is seeking the Liberal nomination as the candidate in the Toronto-area riding of Markham-Thornhill, a seat long held by the recently resigned former immigration minister John McCallum.

Trudeau, said Ng, "has set the table to pave the way for gender parity and for inclusiveness and diversity in a way that we've never seen before, and working alongside him and the team has been really quite infectious."

She knows more than the average person about that push for more diversity in government.

That's because Ng has spent the past year and four months as director of appointments in the Prime Minister's Office, where she oversaw the implementation of the new merit-based process for government appointments championed by Trudeau and the Liberals.

She is taking a leave of absence from that position to seek the Liberal nomination.

She also said she did not speak to Trudeau about her decision.

"I feel inspired and compelled to take a leap," said Ng. "I think I have the experience and I think the only thing that stands in the way between me and taking a seat at the table is some willingness and a lot of hard work. I have both in spades."

The date of the byelection has not yet been set — Trudeau has until Aug. 5 to do so — but the contest to be the Liberal candidate is expected to draw a lot of interest, given McCallum held the seat for so long.

McCallum, first elected as a Liberal MP in 2000, resigned his seat last month to take up his new post as Canada's ambassador to China.

Liberal party spokesman Braeden Caley says a number of people have come forward.

"The party has been approached by a variety of very talented candidates to be the next Team Trudeau member of Parliament for Markham-Thornhill, and the party is working closely with each of them on the process," he said.

Frank Scarpitti, the mayor of Markham, Ont., is also said to be interested. Scarpitti's chief of staff, Raj Raman, had no additional information Wednesday.

Ng, who immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong with her family, does not live in the riding, but grew up in nearby north Toronto, where her parents owned a Chinese food restaurant near Dufferin St. and Eglinton Ave. W.

"I think much of that experience and the struggles I saw in them as we were growing up and then eventual successes as new immigrants is not unlike the experience of a lot of families in Markham-Thornhill," she said.

She has been splitting her time between her family home in north Toronto and Ottawa while working for Trudeau.

She is also another member of the Trudeau team who came from Queen's Park, where she worked alongside his chief of staff, Katie Telford, in the office of Gerard Kennedy, who at that time was Ontario's education minister.

As Liberal leader, Trudeau pledged to hold open nomination contests to choose Liberal candidates for the 2015 election.

That promise came with some bumps in the road; Trudeau was accused of showcasing some star recruits — including Chrystia Freeland, who is now foreign affairs minister — before they had won their nomination contests.

The Liberal party's rules for the selection of byelection candidates do allow for the leader to choose someone without going through a contest, in consultation with the provincial campaign chair and riding association president.

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