Ontario MPP Rick Nicholls removed from role as deputy speaker after refusing to get COVID-19 vaccine

Chatham-Kent-Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls, who was ejected from the Ontario Progressive Conservative caucus for refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccine, has been removed from his role as deputy speaker after seven years.

Nicholls announced Tuesday morning at Queen’s Park that he would be stepping down from the role “as a result of today and of the past incidents that have occurred over the last month and a bit.” However, the Premier’s Office confirmed to CTV News Toronto that Nicholls was actually removed from the position earlier in the day.

Nicholls said that he found out who was going to be replacing him by reading media reports.

“I want to thank the media for letting me know that the government has actually already selected a replacement for me. Yes, that's correct. The government didn't let me know. But I know the individual, and I wish him all the best,” he said.

CTV News Toronto reported Monday that a motion was expected in the legislature to remove Nicholls from the position and replace him with PC MPP Bill Walker.

Nicholls was originally removed from the PC caucus in August after announcing that he and his wife are choosing not to get the shot for “personal reasons.”

He now sits as an independent.

At the news conference Tuesday, Nicholls confirmed that he will not be seeking re-election.

“I will continue to serve proudly as the MPP for Chatham-Kent-Leamington, completing my term and ending my political career on June 1, 2022.”

Nicholls emphasized Tuesday that he is not “anti-vaccine,” but rather firmly believes in personal choice. He goes on to claim that a recent NDP motion prohibiting unvaccinated individuals from entering the legislature is “unconstitutional” and that the party is “attempting to block (his) elected right to participate in proceedings.”

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

The Progressive Conservative government has recently come under fire for a “double standard” after another MPP was not removed from caucus after allegedly misleading the government about her vaccine status.

Instead, Durham MPP Lindsey Park was stripped of her role as Parliamentary Assistant to the Attorney General.

PC MPPs were given a deadline in August to provide proof of vaccination or submit a medical exemption signed by a physician.

Government House Leader Paul Calandra told journalists at Queen’s Park on Monday that they believed Park would be getting the vaccine.

“She made the decision not to be vaccinated after communicating that she would be vaccinated,” he said.

Park did submit a medical exemption ahead of the Throne Speech.

There are only two medical exemptions available for the COVID-19 vaccine. The first would be an allergic reaction to a component of the vaccine and the second would be if an individual suffered myocarditis or pericarditis after the first dose of a vaccine.

Two PC MPPs have submitted a medical exemption.

Ontario’s current COVID-19 vaccine certification program only impacts non-essential businesses such as indoor dining, gyms and movie theatres.