By Pam Wright
Journalist of the Local Journalism Initiative
Chatham-Kent-Leamington incumbent Rick Nicholls believes his stance on the COVID-19 vaccine cost him his seat at Queen’s Park.
But he doesn’t regret it.
“I think it came down to my position on the Doug Ford vaccine mandate which saw me removed from caucus (PC),” Nicholls said the day after the June 2 election. “That’s what I heard from people at the door.
“People told me to get vaccinated,” he added, “but I wondered if they were respecting personal choice.”
But after being ousted by Ford for failing to fire, Nicholls found a new political home.
He signed with the Ontario Party and is now second in command to party leader Derek Sloan.
“I looked at their platform and it matches my thinking,” Nicholls explained, adding that he will continue as deputy leader to help build the party.
The Ontario Party won no seats in the election, which Nicholls said was disappointing.
“We are disappointed that more votes have not reached us. I think there was voter apathy,” he noted, adding that voter turnout would be the lowest in Ontario history.
However, he was surprised by the PC’s landslide majority victory, as he had predicted a minority victory for the Conservatives.
“It tells me people liked the way Ford handled the pandemic,” Nicholls said.
But on a good note, the former PC MLA who has served CKL for three terms since 2011, said he was looking forward to taking some time off.
“My wife and I haven’t taken a vacation in three years and I can’t wait to be there,” he said.
Moreover, he also plans to spend some quality time with his grandchildren.
Nicholls, who will leave his constituency offices in about two weeks, said he was proud of his record.
“We’ve done some good things,” he said, counting the safety of Highway 401, funding for the Chatham-Kent Children’s Treatment Center, funding for education and awareness work at human trafficking among his victories.
Trevor Jones, the new PC MP for Chatham-Kent–Leamington, is expected to be sworn in in June.
Jones received 17,389 votes, NDP candidate Brock McGregor got 11,024 votes and Nicholls finished third with 5,416 ballots.