UPDATE: Nicholls booted from PC caucus

Chatham-Kent-Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls on June 15, 2021. (Photo from Facebook Live announcement)

Rick Nicholls has been removed from the Ontario Progressive Conservative caucus after he announced that he will not get the COVID-19 vaccine as required by the party.

The Chatham-Kent-Leamington MPP announced his vaccine status Thursday afternoon from Queen’s Park.

“I took the premier at his word that vaccination is a choice that all Ontarians have a constitutional right to make such a choice,” Nicholls said. “Up until five o’clock today [Thursday] I am still a PC caucus member and I will remain there until I’m told otherwise.”

At around 6 p.m., Premier Doug Ford issued a statement confirming Nicholls’ departure.

“MPP Rick Nicholls has failed to provide a legitimate reason for exemption from vaccination,” a release from the Premier read. “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.”

Only one other PC MPP is unvaccinated. Scarborough Centre MPP Christina Mitas will remain in caucus due to a medical exemption signed by a physician. Mitas has made assurances that she will take extra precautions while carrying out her duties.

“I’m once again asking every single eligible Ontarian, who has not yet received a vaccine, to please get vaccinated now. Vaccines are safe, they are effective, and they continue to be our best defence against COVID-19.” Ford added.

Earlier this week, Ford announced that PC caucus members could be kicked out if they were not vaccinated by 5 p.m. Thursday.

“Due to the nature of their work, which involves daily interaction with members of the public, including the most vulnerable, it is our expectation that every single PC caucus member and candidate be vaccinated,” the statement said.

-With files from Ruby Sweeney