TORONTO — An Ontario legislator who was warned to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or face removal from the Progressive Conservative caucus said Thursday he doesn’t intend to take the shot.
Rick Nicholls, who represents Chatham-Kent-Leamington, said he made a “personal choice” and would not get immunized against the virus despite being given a 5 p.m. deadline to do so.
“Under no circumstances will I, nor should any Ontarian, be forced or coerced to do something against their will,” Nicholls told reporters at a news conference.
“To do so is an affront to the democratic principles of this magnificent institution.”
He noted that his decision may result in the loss of his position as deputy speaker in the legislature.
Nicholls left the news conference after taking one question from the media and did not elaborate on his personal reason for not taking the vaccine.
Nicholls was one of two Tory legislators facing a deadline to show proof of vaccination or a medical exemption.
He said he would wait for word from Premier Doug Ford’s office about his status in the Progressive Conservative ranks.
Premier Doug Ford — who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and has urged all Ontario residents to get immunized — has previously said he wouldn’t make the vaccine mandatory, because he considers it a constitutional right not to take the shots.
Nicholls said he “took the premier at his word that vaccination is a choice and that all Ontarians have a constitutional right to make such a choice.” He said he raised his concerns about the policy with Ford.
The directive applying to Tory caucus members is stricter than measures announced by Ford’s government this week affecting workers in education, health care other high-risk settings.
Those policies would see unvaccinated workers subject to regular COVID-19 tests before coming to work.
In a letter obtained by The Canadian Press this week, government whip Lorne Coe told the unvaccinated members of the Progressive Conservative caucus that elected officials have a “responsibility to show leadership” on immunization.
The Canadian Press has not verified the identity of the other unvaccinated caucus member.
Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press