Ousted PC MPP Rick Nicholls says he isn't anti-vaccination

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Ontario PC MPP Rick Nicholls leaves  a news conference at the Queens Park Legislature, in Toronto on Thursday, August 19, 2021, after announcing that he would not get vaccinated against COVID-19.  (The Canadian Press - image credit)
Ontario PC MPP Rick Nicholls leaves a news conference at the Queens Park Legislature, in Toronto on Thursday, August 19, 2021, after announcing that he would not get vaccinated against COVID-19. (The Canadian Press - image credit)

Ousted PC MPP Rick Nicholls said he and his wife are not anti-vaccination but did their "own research" and have decided against getting the COVID-19 shot.

"It's not a question of being anti-vaxxers. That's not the issue at all. The issue here is that it's our choice, and as some have said, it's our bodies, and we have a right to decide what we want to put into it," he said.

Nicholls joined CBC Radio's Windsor Morning on Friday, a day after he was removed from the Progressive Conservative caucus.

In a statement Thursday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Nicholls "failed to provide a legitimate reason for exemption from vaccination."

Nicholls said Ford went back on his word on the issue of mandatory vaccinations for his caucus following pressure from opposition MPPs.

The controversy comes amid an uptick COVID-19 cases provincially, as well as in Chatham-Kent and Windsor-Essex, where Nicholls represents the riding of Chatham-Kent—Leamington.

There are 31 active COVID-19 cases in Chatham-Kent as Thursday.

COVID-19 vaccines have been approved by Health Canada and public health experts have stressed that they are safe, effective and crucial in the fight against the coronavirus.

Asked about whether being booted from the party changes his plans for the provincial election slated for next year Nicholls told Windsor Morning, "Let's wait and see."

The premier has indicated he can't run under the PC banner.

Later Friday, when interviewed again by CBC News, Nicholls was more definitive.

"Being told I will not be allowed to campaign under the PC banner in the next provincial election, I guess that kind of limits my choices but to be honest I have made a commitment to my wife that I will not be running in the next election," he said.

"Things can change, things can change. But at this point the answer is 'no I will not be running.'

Nicholls was one of two Tory legislators facing a Thursday evening deadline to show proof of vaccination or a medical exemption. The other MPP, Christina Mitas, will remain in caucus because she provided a statement of medical exemption signed by a physician.

Lydia Miljan, a professor of political science at the University of Windsor, said the public is increasingly judging governments on fairness and equity, and politicians are expected to lead by example when it comes to complying with rules.

"The Ford government is in a bind politically on vaccinations because it is mandating shots for health-care and education workers," she said.

"It looks bad on them if they don't have their own caucus doing what they're asking other workers in other sectors."

Nicholls, who has served for three terms as an MPP, came under fire in 2015 after saying he didn't believe in evolution.

He said in the legislature that students opting out of learning evolution was "not a bad idea."

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