PC MPP Rick Nicholls booted from caucus over unvaxxed status

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PC MPP Rick Nicholls booted from caucus over unvaxxed status
Author of the article:Antonella Artuso
Publishing date:Aug 19, 2021 • 8 hours ago • 2 minute read • 21 Comments
Ontario PC MPP Rick Nicholls is pictured in his office at the Queens Park Legislature after holding a news conference to announce he would not get vaccinated against COVID-19 on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021.
Ontario PC MPP Rick Nicholls is pictured in his office at the Queens Park Legislature after holding a news conference to announce he would not get vaccinated against COVID-19 on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021. PHOTO BY CHRIS YOUNG /THE CANADIAN PRESS
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Premier Doug Ford has evicted an MPP from the Ontario PC caucus for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

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MPP Rick Nicholls, the now independent representative for Chatham-Kent-Leamington, said he received a phone call from a member of Ford’s re-election campaign manager who warned him “in a demeaning tone” that he would be booted unless vaccinated by 5 p.m. Thursday.


Nicholls, who had been serving as deputy speaker, said he and his wife Diane made a personal decision to remain unvaccinated.

“I took the Premier at his word that vaccination is a choice, and that all Ontarians have a constitutional right to make such a choice,” Nicholls said, an hour before the 5 p.m. deadline. “Like almost two million eligible Ontarians, I choose to exercise this autonomy over my own body while continuing to work hard for the people of Ontario.”

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In a statement later that day, Ford confirmed Nicholls was one of two unvaccinated PC MPPs.

“MPP Rick Nicholls has failed to provide a legitimate reason for exemption from vaccination. As a consequence, he is no longer a sitting member of the PC caucus and will not be permitted to seek re-election as a PC candidate,” the statement said. “MPP Christina Mitas will remain in caucus as she has provided a statement of medical exemption signed by a physician and made assurances she will take additional precautions while carrying out her duties as an elected representative.”

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Ford said he has repeatedly urged Ontarians to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and elected officials should lead by example.

Politicians also interact daily with members of the public, he said.

“It is my expectation that every PC caucus member and candidate not only support the role vaccines play in the fight against COVID-19, but also be vaccinated to protect themselves and the people in their community,” he said.

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Should MPP Rick Nicholls have been kicked out of the PC caucus for refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19?

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Public health officials have repeatedly warned about the danger of a fourth wave propelled by the more contagious delta variant and offered COVID-19 vaccines as a safe means to prevent serious illness and death.

The Premier has refused to mandate vaccines but has ordered many high-risk institutions like nursing homes and hospitals to put in place a policy that requires either inoculation, a medical or religious exemption or the undertaking of an education session.

The unvaccinated must also undergo regular testing.


The Ontario Public Service will now be subject to the same requirements.

Nicholls said he has privately voiced concerns with Ford about the mental, health and economic toll of the government’s pandemic response, and watched as members of his own family lost their entire livelihood.

“Under no circumstances will I, nor should any Ontarian, be forced or coerced to do something against their will,” Nicholls said. “To do so is an affront to the democratic principles of this magnificent institution.”

aartuso@postmedia.com
 

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Ontario NDP want former Tory who refused vaccination replaced as deputy speaker
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Holly McKenzie-Sutter
Publishing date:Aug 20, 2021 • 12 hours ago • 2 minute read • 33 Comments
Chatham-Kent-Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls.
Chatham-Kent-Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls. PHOTO BY ELLWOOD SHREVE /Postmedia Network
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The Ontario New Democrats want a former Tory legislator who was booted from caucus for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine to be replaced as deputy speaker at Queen’s Park.

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Opposition house leader Peggy Sattler wrote to her government counterpart on Friday asking for a meeting to discuss “next steps” to replace Rick Nicholls.

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Nicholls was removed from the governing Progressive Conservatives’ caucus Thursday after being told to get the shots or show proof of a medical exemption.

Premier Doug Ford says he expects all Progressive Conservative members and candidates to get vaccinated, and that Nicholls did not provide a legitimate reason for not doing so.

Nicholls, who represents Chatham-Kent-Leamington, told reporters he did not take the vaccine for “personal reasons” and maintained he wouldn’t be “coerced” into getting the shot.

At a brief news conference on Thursday, Nicholls noted that his decision might result in the loss of his deputy speaker title.

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Sattler asked Government House Leader Paul Calandra to call a meeting with house leaders of all parties to talk about replacing Nicholls “in light of the events of the last week.”

She also asked for the meeting to discuss COVID-19 protocols, including “conversations confirming a mandatory vaccine policy.”

“It is imperative that we work together to ensure the safety of all Legislative Assembly staff and members, and that work begin immediately,” she wrote.

Calandra’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

As of Friday afternoon, Nicholls was listed as an independent member on the legislative assembly’s website. But deputy speaker was still named as one of his parliamentary roles.

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca also called earlier this week for a mandatory vaccination policy for elected members of the provincial legislature, and asked for “clear protocols” for unvaccinated staff and visitors.

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Ford had previously said he wouldn’t make vaccination mandatory for workers — although he is personally fully vaccinated against COVID-19 — because he considers it a constitutional right to refuse the vaccine.


But on Thursday he said elected officials “must rightfully be held to a higher standard” and “lead by example” on vaccination.

Unvaccinated Scarborough Centre representative Christina Mitas was permitted to remain in the Tory caucus because Ford said she provided a medical exemption statement from a physician.

His office did not provide details on what medical exemptions to vaccination were considered acceptable for caucus members.

Vaccination policies for several high-risk sectors were announced over the last week in Ontario.

Workers in hospitals, ambulance services and other health jobs, as well as in schools and daycares, will need to get vaccinated or regularly take COVID-19 tests, the province said.

But some agencies and employers, including provincial transit agency Metrolinx, said their policies wouldn’t allow testing as an alternative to getting the shots.

Nearly 82 per cent of the eligible population in Ontario had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose as of Friday.