Chatham-Kent residents have mixed opinions over their MPP's refusal to be inoculated against COVID-19.
On Thursday, Progressive Conservative MPP for Chatham-Kent-Leamington Rick Nicholls announced publicly he would not abide by his party's mandate to be vaccinated. He said the decision was a personal choice.
"Like almost 2-million eligible Ontarians, I choose to exercise this autonomy on my own body, while working hard for the people of Ontario," he said.
Premier Doug Ford followed that news by issuing a statement, expelling Nicholls from the PC caucus.
"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," said Ford in the statement.
"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."
In Nicholls' riding, there are conflicting opinions on the matter.
"It doesn't bother me. It's his choice."
"I think the man should get the shots," said Chatham-Kent resident Dave Toogood, who pointed to his personal family history, losing three relatives to tuberculosis in the 1930s.
He also said Nicholls should have known this is how politics work. "In our parliamentary system, the way it's evolved the prime minister or the premier's office has all the real power anyway so if you don't do what the boss says, out you go."
Yvonne Morphet, a young mother, has a different perspective and speaks of her own vaccine hesitancy.
"I'm not vaccinated myself yet. I'm not too sure about it yet," she said. "It doesn't bother me. It's his choice."
Chatham-Kent resident, Gerry Renaud, said Nicholls should have received it.
"Everybody's seems to have to be forced to take [the vaccine] on account of everybody's safety so maybe he should have stepped up to the plate," he said.
Dr. David Colby, Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health, deferred answering questions directly about Nicholls but said the conversation around vaccines has to be based on science.
"I am 100% pro-vaccination and I am of the opinion that people should get their health information from medical and scientific sources rather than from celebrities and politicians. No disrespect implied," he said.
Nicholls was one of two Tory legislators facing a Thursday evening deadline to show proof of vaccination or a medical exemption.
Ford said the other MPP in question, Christina Mitas of Scarborough Centre, will remain in caucus because she provided a statement of medical exemption signed by a physician. The statement also says Mitas will take "additional precautions" while carrying out her duties as an elected representative.
Nicholls, who also serves as the deputy speaker of the legislature, said he would sit as an independent MPP "if deemed necessary by the government."