Oosterhoff party was 'reminded several times' to follow COVID rules, restaurant says

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NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. — A southern Ontario restaurant says members of a recent private party that included a provincial politician ignored pandemic-related safety guidelines.

In a post on its Facebook page this week, Betty's Restaurant in Niagara Falls, Ont., said the group was "reminded several times" to wear masks when not seated at their table, but chose not to do so.

"We can remind guests but we cannot strong-arm them into following rules," the post reads.

Progressive Conservative legislator Sam Oosterhoff has apologized for not wearing a mask while posing for a group photo at the restaurant.

Oosterhoff, who is parliamentary assistant to the education minister, posted the picture on social media but later deleted it.

He said the event was in line with provincial rules, but acknowledged he should have had a mask on when taking the photo.

"I should have worn a mask when we took a quick pic, given the proximity of everyone, and I apologize for failing to do so," Oosterhoff said in a statement.  

Critics have called for Oosterhoff's resignation as parliamentary assistant, saying he was flouting his government's own pandemic guidance.

Premier Doug Ford has brushed aside those concerns, saying everyone makes mistakes and he has "100 per cent confidence'' in the Niagara West representative.

Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said Wednesday that it's important for all Ontarians — including members of provincial parliament — to "step up" in the fight against COVID-19.

"As MPPs, we all have to lead by example — everyone in the province has to do more and take these precautions seriously to prevent the spread of COVID-19. That's the only way we're going to mitigate risks," McNaughton told reporters.

Asked whether he would have attended a gathering as large as the one at Betty's Restaurant, McNaughton answered simply: "No."

Betty's said Oosterhoff's party was in a private room with a separate entrance and washrooms and did not interact with other patrons.

Staff sanitized and disinfected the room after the party, the restaurant said.

"We are truly doing our best to follow all guidelines for your safety and ours," the company's Facebook post reads. 

"We humbly appreciate all of those who continue to support us."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2020.

The Canadian Press