Rick Nicholls steps down as deputy speaker after being booted from caucus for vaccine refusal

MPP Rick Nicholls announced on Tuesday that he’s stepping down as deputy speaker after he was booted from the Conservative caucus in August for refusing to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

Nicholls, who represents the Chatham-Kent–Leamington riding, now sits as an independent MPP.

“The government attempted to force me into getting the vaccine or be removed from caucus. Sticking to my values and my principles I refused to get the vaccine,” he announced Tuesday. “So the government made good on their threat by removing me from caucus and prohibiting me from running in the 2022 election…”

“As a result … I am announcing that I am stepping down as the deputy speaker and chair of the committee of the whole house.”

While Nicholls stood by his decision to refuse the vaccine, he said: “Let me be clear, I am not an anti-vaxxer.

“People should not be penalized for their choice to either get vaccinated or to not be vaccinated.”

On Monday, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called out two of the province’s 70 Progressive Conservative representatives for obtaining medical exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Horwath called it “statistically curious” that exemptions are supposed to be extremely rare, yet two of 70 Conservative members — Lindsey Park and Christina Mitas — obtained them.

The government announced last week that Park, one of Premier Doug Ford’s caucus members, had been stripped of her parliamentary assistant role for misrepresenting her COVID-19 vaccination status.

She remains in caucus with government House Leader Paul Calandra calling her an “important member of the team.”

Calandra noted on Monday that the two members “presumably” received a medical exemption from their medical practitioners that follows the guidelines.

With files from The Canadian Press

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