Ontario politicians say 'dishonest' MPP should be removed from Doug Ford's caucus
TORONTO -- Premier Doug Ford is being criticized for a vaccination “double standard” after a Progressive Conservative MPP was punished but not removed from caucus for allegedly misleading the government about her vaccine status.
Lindsey Park, a first-time MPP representing Durham, was stripped of her role as a Parliamentary Assistant to the Attorney General after the government said she “misrepresented” her vaccine status.
“It was our impression, my impression, that that Ms. Park was to be vaccinated,” Government House Leader Paul Calandra told journalists at Queen’s Park on Monday. “She made the decision not to be vaccinated after communicating that she would be vaccinated.”
When the government asked MPPs to provide proof of vaccination ahead of the Throne Speech, Park instead submitted a medical exemption which triggered her removal from official government duties.
While Calandra considered the move “an error in judgement” he said Park has the “right” to receive a medical exemption and continue her work as a parliamentarian.
“Ms. Park has sought medical advice and presumably received medical exemptions from medical practitioners following the guidelines set forward by the Chief Medical Officer of Health, so that's what we would expect of our members,” Calandra said.
The premier’s handling of Park’s misrepresentation, however, comes in stark contrast with Rick Nicholls, who was removed from the Progressive Conservative caucus for being upfront about his vaccination status.
“Mr. Nicholls was punished for being honest, and [Park] hasn’t been punished for being dishonest,” Green Party leader Mike Schreiner said.
On Monday, the government announced it would table a motion in the legislature to remove Nicholls as Deputy Speaker of the Ontario Legislature and replace him with PC MPP Bill Walker.
The difference in treatment between Park and Nicholls is being classified by opposition MPPs as a double standard – with critics suggesting Park should have been removed from caucus as well.
“I have no idea why there's a different standard or a double standard with Ms. Park and and Mr. Nicholls,” NDP leader Andrea Horwath said. “I guess in this case, he wanted protect her by keeping her in his caucus. I think it speaks to his lack of leadership, frankly.”
Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said there should be consistency between members of the PC caucus with “one set of rules across the board.”
“[It] sends a very dangerous message to the people of this province about what we’re really doing with vaccines,” Del Duca said.