By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Ontario health critic Frances Gelinas doesn’t mince words when asked about Chatham-Kent–Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls’ very public stance against the COVID-19 vaccine.
“This is a man in a position of power who is undermining public health measures,” Gelinas told The Chatham Voice in an interview last week. “It’s an abuse of power and is basically destroying belief and faith in public health.”
The veteran NDP Nicklebelt MPP made the comments following Nicholls recent ouster from the PC caucus by Premier Doug Ford after he refused the shot.
Avoiding the immunization also cost Nicholls his role as Deputy Speaker of the House, which in 2020, earned him an annual salary of $147,178.
The base salary for an MPP is $108,000.
Since his expulsion, Nicholls has continued to speak out against getting the jab and the soon-to-be adopted vaccine passport.
He continues to refer to the COVID-19 vaccine as an “experimental drug” and recently appeared in a 13-minute video on Rumble, which in turn appeared on the extreme right wing, often controversial, Rebel News platform.
The message from Nicholls offers his take on the vaccine and tells those who reject the shot they are not alone, adding they will be offered help if they reach to out to him via e-mail.
As part of the story The Voice reached out to the premier’s office and received this e-mail message in response: “As the world continues its fight against the Delta variant, our government will never waver in our commitment to do what’s necessary to keep people safe, protect our hospitals and minimize disruptions to businesses. We encourage MPP Nicholls to do what millions of Ontarians have already done: get vaccinated.”
Nicholls did not return requests for comment by press time.
An MPP for more than 10 years, Gelinas worked in health care for 25 years before running for the legislature. She said it’s really hard to watch Nicholls and Independent MPP Randy Hillier tear down public health policies.
“The message is amplified when it comes from an elected official,” Gelinas added. “This pandemic has gone on too long and we all want this to go away.”
The health critic believes vaccines are the way out of the COVID-19 crisis.
Gelinas said the Ford government has been silent when it comes to former PC politicians criticizing current COVID-19 policies. She added the government could counter the anti-mask, anti-COVID-19 vaccine messages by making a statement to the public.
Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby has repeatedly stated that mRNA vaccines are not experimental as they are fully tested and approved.
“These are facts and there is no controversy about this among scientific and medical authorities,” Colby said recently.
Colby said it “speaks volumes” that 90 per cent of new covid cases are in unvaccinated people, putting hospital ICUs at risk of being overwhelmed with sick COVID patients.
As for vaccine passports, Colby said it is hardly a new concept, as we have had mandatory vaccines for school and travel for decades.
Canada is a democracy, Colby stressed, adding the vast majority of people support having a vaccination certification program to encourage people to get the shot.
“Governments have the responsibility to keep people safe,” Colby added.