Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's decision to remove all 32 Liberal senators out of the Liberal Party’s parliamentary caucus has garnered mixed opinions among P.E.I. politicians.
Trudeau’s decision to expel every single Liberal member of the upper house — including three from P.E.I. — stunned both Liberal senators and senior Liberal Senate staffers, who had not been formally advised of the decision. It also blindsided veteran insiders and political observers who had no inkling about the change.
Trudeau proposed the Senate should be made non-partisan, to better serve Canadians. He suggested an "open, transparent, non-partisan process" that would see all senators named to the Red Chamber sit as Independents.
Don Desserud, a professor at UPEI, describes the move as "clever " but said it changes little.
"They're not going to stop being Liberals because he has told them to stop being Liberals. They're Liberals because they spent their whole life and much of their career, not only serving the Liberal Party but working very hard for the Liberal Party,” he said.
“This is who they are, how they identify themselves. They're Liberals because they want to be Liberals not because of some rule."
Peter Bevan-Baker, leader of the Green Party, believes the move may be a step in the right direction to reforming the senate.
"I don't think much is going to change but I think it’s a symbol and I think it’s a signal that we can make changes. Like the senate can be reformed, it could be made to work better. I hope we can do that. I'm not for abolishing the senate," he said.
Premier Robert Ghiz said he was surprised by the move and agreed it might lead to senate reform
"It could be a step in the right direction. I've said all along that if the prime minister is actually serious about senate reform, or abolishing the senate, he needs to sit down with the provinces and look at amending the constitution," said Ghiz.
The New Democratic Party is in favour of abolishing the senate. P.E.I. NDP Leader Mike Redmond said this could be a first move towards abolition but said Liberal senators will continue to be Liberals.
"Well if you listen to the Liberal senators, they say that they are Liberals — whether they are attached to the Liberal caucus or not. So that's something they’re going to have to deal with. But removing partisanship from the senate is a great first step but abolishing the senate is probably a greater achievement," said Redmond.