The MPP for Chatham-Kent-Leamington has joined the Ontario Party.
Rick Nicholls had been sitting as an independent since August, when he was ousted from the Progressive Conservative caucus for refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
"My reason for joining the Ontario Party was pretty straightforward," Nicholls told CBC News. "I am a conservative. However, having said that, I became very much disenchanted with the movement and the direction that the Ford government is going."
Nicholls said he got an opportunity to speak with Ontario Party representatives and he "liked what they stood for."
"They're pro-family, they're pro liberty," he said. "That was one of the main reasons why I chose to attach my name to them and join the party."
The Ontario Party was founded in 2018, and former Conservative MP Derek Sloan is the current leader. In a news release, Sloan pitched the party as an alternative to "the four left-wing parties" — referring to the Greens, NDP, Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives.
Nicholls' switch makes him the party's first sitting member at Queen's Park.
Nicholls said despite what happened with the PC party and posts he made online saying the COVID-19 vaccine was unsafe, he's not anti-vaccination.
"I didn't think that this particular vaccination was safe," he said Wednesday. "I have all my other vaccines."
The consensus among medical experts is that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.
Nicholls said he didn't think enough was known about the COVID-19 vaccine at the time, and therefore he decided not to get it.
"It's, you know, my choice," he said. "I'm not adverse to anyone who has chosen to get the vaccine."
"If someone chooses to get a vaccine, OK," Nicholls said. "But if they choose not to, OK."
"But let's have the respect for both parties."
Nicholls also said he had no concerns over Ontario Party leader Sloan, who was expelled from the Conservative Party after accepting a donation from Paul Fromm, who describes himself as a white nationalist.
"I think it was a case where all this, I think, came to light ... after the leadership race, Nicholls said. "I know that Derek Sloan tried to defend himself, but his his defence fell on deaf ears."
Sloan also faced criticism for his remarks about Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam.
Nicholls said he's currently helping the Ontario Party with policy development, but hasn't decided if he'll run again in the next election.
He said he expects to make that decision by mid-February.