TORONTO — An Ontario member of provincial parliament who was accused of misrepresenting her COVID-19 vaccination status has resigned from the Progressive Conservative caucus, citing a breakdown in trust.
The Tories announced earlier this month that Lindsey Park, who represents Durham, was being stripped of her role as parliamentary assistant to the attorney general.
Government house leader Paul Calandra had said Park would remain in caucus after providing a medical exemption. He said he was under the impression in August that Park "was to be vaccinated," but that she subsequently sought a medical exemption without properly communicating it to him.
Park said in a statement Friday that what Calandra said was false.
"To say I was shocked and horrified would be an understatement," she wrote.
Park said she decided she can't sit as a Progressive Conservative due to "the breakdown in trust that has transpired" and will represent Durham as an independent.
She said she hand-delivered a letter about her medical exemption to the premier's office in August - and followed up after Premier Doug Ford said at a press conference in September that only one caucus member had received a medical exemption, a reference to Christina Mitas, who represents Scarborough Centre.
Calandra said, however, that Park's letter wasn't discovered for nearly a month.
"The letter Ms. Park claims she hand delivered on August 26th was in fact left in an unmarked envelop on an unstaffed desk in the premier's office," he said in a statement Friday. Staff only found the letter after Park contacted the office to inquire whether it had been received, he said.
"To date, no one in the premier's office or the government house leader's office has seen Ms. Park’s medical exemption," he said.
Park said her doctor provided a medical exemption because she had a "severe allergic reaction" to a flu vaccine and a grandparent developed Guillain-Barre syndrome following a flu vaccine.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare autoimmune disorder in which a person's immune system damages nerves, and symptoms can last from a few weeks to several years.
Ontario's official guidance on medical exemptions says "there are very few actual contraindications to available COVID-19 vaccines that would qualify as medical exemptions."
People who have a severe allergy to a component of the vaccine, experienced "serious adverse events" following a first dose, or have medical conditions that may affect their response to immunization should be referred to a specialist such an allergist, the guidance says.
"In many instances, safe administration of subsequent doses of COVID-19 vaccine is possible under the management of an allergist/immunologist," the document says.
Park said her doctor has referred her to an allergist and she is awaiting an appointment date.
Earlier this year, Rick Nicholls, who represents Chatham-Kent-Leamington, was ousted from caucus after he refused to get vaccinated.
The other parties at the Ontario legislature have said all of their caucus members are fully vaccinated.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 22, 2021.
Allison Jones, The Canadian Press